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Marcel Hirscher clinches record 6th straight World Cup overall title

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Marcel Hirscher reached an unprecedented run of dominance in Alpine skiing history on Saturday.

The Austrian clinched his record-breaking sixth straight World Cup overall title with his 44th career World Cup victory in a giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

He wrapped up the title, determined by accumulating results throughout the season, with five races left on the 36-race schedule. Hirscher couldn’t quite believe it when told of the news.

“You think so?” Hirscher said, still breathing heavily from his second run in the finish area. “Mathematics wasn’t my best program on school. Can you tell me why?”

Here’s why: Hirscher leads by 504 points with five races left. Winners receive 100 points per race, so second-place Kjetil Jansrud of Norway can’t catch Hirscher, even if Jansrud wins the rest of the races and Hirscher doesn’t ski again this season.

“That is not too bad, actually,” Hirscher said after it was explained to him.

Hirscher, who turned 28 on Thursday, now owns more World Cup overall titles than any man in history, breaking his tie with Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli.

Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell owns the women’s record of six overall titles, but they were not all in a row.

This only increases the pressure on Hirscher to deliver in PyeongChang. Hirscher captured individual world titles in 2013, 2015 and 2017, in different events each year, but lacks an Olympic gold medal.

He was upset in the 2014 Olympic slalom by countryman Mario Matt, taking silver.

“It is not always easy,” said Hirscher, who has five wins and eight runners-up in 15 standard World Cup slaloms and giant slaloms this season. “On the top, it is sometimes more a mind game than a physical game.”

This season, Hirscher leads the World Cup giant slalom and slalom standings and swept the events at the world championships last month. Hirscher reportedly spent days sick in bed at worlds before racing.

Consider that Hirscher missed world super combined gold by .01, and that Austria could be favored to win the new Olympic team event in 2018, and he could go for four gold medals in PyeongChang.

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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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