Luca Aerni’s surprise combined gold gives Swiss its best worlds in 26 years

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Swiss Luca Aerni didn’t know if he’d be racing the world championships super combined until Sunday night. He ended up winning gold, beating the world’s best skier by .01 on Monday.

Aerni became the third host-nation gold medalist in six races so far at worlds, edging World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria after downhill and slalom runs in St. Moritz. The unheralded Aerni was the last of four Swiss named to the super combined roster Sunday night.

Another Swiss, Mauro Caviezel, earned bronze, .06 behind, after missing all of the 2015-16 season due to injuries.

There are still five races left at worlds, but the Swiss already have their best medal haul in 26 years, since the tail end of their dominant era of the likes of Vreni Schneider and Pirmin Zurbriggen.

The top American was Bryce Bennett in 11th. The U.S. men haven’t had a top-10 in three worlds races so far.

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Aerni, 23, was a complete surprise, the first Olympic or world champion without a World Cup podium to his name since 2007. He repeated the feat of Hirscher of two years ago, placing 30th in the morning downhill run and running first in the afternoon slalom en route to gold.

“I was really nervous the last 45 minutes waiting for everyone to finish,” said Aerni, who was 2.61 seconds behind after the downhill but 1.6 seconds faster than everyone in the slalom except Hirscher, who was .32 slower. “I could only watch and hope as the others came down. I knew my slalom run was good, but with the combined you never know what will happen. It was definitely a long wait until I realized I had the gold medal.”

Aerni’s best World Cup finish is fifth. He previously raced once at the Olympics and once at worlds, failing to finish each run.

Hirscher said he raced Monday after spending the previous two days sick in bed, according to SkiRacing.com.

“It is pretty impressive to myself that I am on the podium in this super combined,” he said, according to the report. “It was a little bit nerve-wracking if you see crossing the finish line one hundredth of a second behind.”

Like Aerni, Caviezel came in with a best World Cup finish of fifth and no prior Olympic or worlds medals.

The top three finishers overall also had the top three slalom times.

Pre-race favorite Alexis Pinturault of France was in decent position after the morning downhill, 1.46 seconds behind Austrian leader Romed Baumann, but uncharacteristically struggled in the slalom and wound up 10th. Pinturault remains the winningest men’s World Cup racer (19 victories) without an Olympic or world title. Baumann ended up 12th.

Earlier at worlds, Wendy Holdener won the women’s combined and Beat Feuz took the men’s downhill for Switzerland. The Swiss earned one world title total among the 2011, 2013 and 2015 Worlds.

The World Championships continue with the team event, a new Olympic event, on Tuesday at 6 a.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: Alpine Worlds broadcast schedule

Young U.S. relay team can’t match Great Britain, Russia (video)

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It’s no coincidence that the U.S. men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team had its worst finish since 2001, a bronze in Budapest on Friday.

From 2002 through 2016, either Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte was part of the quartet (and usually both of them were).

But with Phelps retired and Lochte suspended, a much younger foursome swam at worlds, including three men who had no Olympic final experience.

The U.S. led after three of four legs, but Great Britain anchor James Guy (2015 World 200m free champion) had the fastest split of all 32 swimmers by .78.

Guy zoomed past American Zane Grothe as the Brits repeated as world champs in the relay by .98 over Russia, which was a half-second ahead of the U.S. for silver.

Grothe, who is better in the 400m and 800m frees, split three seconds slower than Guy. He was the slowest American by nearly a second (when accounting for slower leadoff legs due to flat starts).

One swimmer the U.S. left off the final quartet was Conor Dwyer, a relay finalist member at every Olympics worlds since 2011. But Dwyer, the Rio 200m free bronze medalist, was fourth in the 200m free at nationals and even slower leading off the U.S. 4x200m in the morning heats.

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Simone Biles gets biopic

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Simone Biles is executive producing her own biopic, “The Simone Biles Story” (working title) set to premiere in early 2018 on Lifetime.

The film is based on her biography, “Courage to Soar,” and will reveal “the sacrifices and dedication it took her to become one of the greatest and most celebrated athletes in the world,” according to a press release.

Biles is a co-executive producer with three others, including her agent.

Biles follows Gabby Douglas, whose biopic, “The Gabby Douglas Story,” premiered on Lifetime in early 2014 after her 2012 Olympic all-around title.

Biles is expected to return to gymnastics training late this year or early next year.

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MORE: For Gabby Douglas, this gymnastics break is different