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.

FULL RESULTS | RACE REPLAY

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

PyeongChang Olympic medals unveiled (photos)

PyeongChang Olympic medal
PyeongChang 2018
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The medals for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics were unveiled in a joint Seoul-New York City ceremony on Wednesday.

The Korean Hangul alphabet was incorporated into the medals’ edges to spell what translates to “PyeongChang Winter Olympics.”

Recent Winter Olympic medals include the Italian piazza design for Torino, the undulating surfaces for Vancouer and a patchwork quilt with diamond-shaped openings for Sochi.

The medals for the previous Olympics in South Korea — the 1988 Seoul Summer Games — were of the more traditional variety.

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Medals from past Olympics:

Seoul 1988/Getty Images
Cindy Klassen
Torino 2006/Getty Images
Vancouver 2010
Sochi 2014/Getty Images

U.S. names women’s gymnastics team for world champs

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It was already assured, but now it’s official.

The U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the world championships named Wednesday includes zero Olympians.

As the wait continues for possible elite comebacks by Simone BilesGabby Douglas, Aly RaismanLaurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian, these four gymnasts will chase medals in Montreal in two weeks:

Ragan Smith
P&G Championships all-around winner
Olympic alternate

Smith was the clear favorite going into the P&G Championships, and she delivered. The Texan coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal Burdette won by 3.4 points, which is greater than the average margin of victory of Biles’ four U.S. all-around titles.

The pressure is on Smith to keep an incredible streak alive. An American gymnast has won every Olympic and world all-around title since 2011. The biggest threat could be Romanian Larisa Iordache, who shared the all-around podium with Biles in 2014 and 2015.

With no team event at worlds this year, the focus is first and foremost on the all-around.

Morgan Hurd
P&G Championships all-around sixth-place finisher

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware. She must have really impressed at this week’s selection camp to get a spot over P&G Championships all-around silver medalist Jordan Chiles, who was named an alternate.

Though she had struggles at P&Gs, Hurd is capable of one of the world’s best floor exercise routines.

Ashton Locklear
P&G Championships uneven bars silver medalist
Olympic alternate

The “veteran” of this team at age 19 and the only one with world championships experience. Locklear was probably the closest of the alternates to making the Olympic team, getting edged out by Kocian for the uneven bars specialist spot.

Locklear missed an uneven bars medal at 2014 Worlds by .017. She was second to Riley McCusker on bars last month at P&Gs, where she wasn’t performing her most difficult set.

Jade Carey
P&G Championships vault winner

Carey hopes to follow the path of Kayla Williams, who in 2009 went from not even being an elite-level gymnast to winning the world vault title. Carey, 17, struggled with her Amanar at P&Gs, falling once and nearly sitting it down on the second day.

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