Travis Ganong ends World Cup drought; Steven Nyman’s season over

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Travis Ganong ended the U.S.’ longest drought between men’s World Cup wins since 2000, while teammate Steven Nyman‘s season is over after he was airlifted off the downhill course after crashing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Friday.

Ganong prevailed by .38 of a second over Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud to notch the first U.S. men’s World Cup win in any discipline since Oct. 25, 2015.

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Nyman, the top American downhiller since the Sochi Olympics, crashed into safety netting on his run and was transported by helicopter off the course.

“My season is over but aside from my knee everything is okay,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “Time for some surgery and healing. I WILL BE BACK!”

Ganong and Nyman are the only U.S. men to make a World Cup downhill podium the last three seasons. In 2016, the U.S. went a calendar year without a men’s World Cup win in any discipline for the first time since 1999.

With Ted Ligety‘s season-ending surgery and no other top racers in technical events, downhill is currently the U.S. men’s best event going into the world championships in two weeks in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Even with Nyman’s absence.

Nyman, 34 and a three-time Olympian, has posted seven of his 11 career World Cup podiums since the Sochi Olympics, all in downhill.

Ganong, 28, enjoyed a fifth-place finish in his Olympic debut in the Sochi downhill, made his first World Cup podium later that month and won his first World Cup race in December 2014.

Ganong followed that up with a surprise world championships downhill silver medal in Beaver Creek, Colo., in February 2015. He struggled in recent months, though. Before Friday, his last top-five on the World Cup came in November 2015.

The men race another downhill Saturday (live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 6 a.m. ET).

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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