Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety wins World Cup giant slalom opener in Soelden (video)

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Make it three in a row for Ted Ligety.

The world’s best giant slalom skier won the season-opening World Cup in Soelden, Austria, for the third straight year on Sunday, beating the field by .79 of a second over two combined runs.

“Pretty psyched to win this, for sure,” Ligety said. “It wasn’t easy in that second run, super dark on the pitch. Really bumpy, but whenever you win it’s a good day.”

American Bode Miller placed 19th in his first World Cup race since February 2012 coming back from injury.

The start was moved down due to heavy winds, so the fastest runs were about one minute rather than around 1:20.

Shiffrin posts career best in women’s race

Ligety, 29, took a commanding .90 lead after the first run earlier Sunday morning and clocked a total of 1:59.50 to win over France’s Alexis Pinturault and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, the other top two giant slalom racers from last season. Ligety pumped his fist and skied into a suspended camera after crossing the finish line.

“There’s always so much anxiety coming into (the season) because you never really know where you are,” Ligety said. “I didn’t feel like this summer my skiing was really where I wanted to be.”

He prevailed by a blowout margin of 2.75 seconds last year and joined Austrian legend Hermann Maier as the only men to win Soelden three times (though Maier’s weren’t consecutive).

Ligety, who won his 18th career World Cup race (all giant slaloms), is set up for a busy season as he eyes the World Cup overall title.

He finished third in the overall standings last year behind Hirscher and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. Svindal tied for fourth at Soelden on Sunday.

Hirscher is the reigning World Cup slalom champion, and Svindal racks up points in speed events.

But nobody was better than Ligety at the World Championships in February, when he became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals.

The World Cup continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 17, where a rather unusual prize will be awarded.

Soelden Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:59.50
2. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:00.29
3. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:00.52
4. Steve Missillier (FRA) 2:01.23
4. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 2:01.23
6. Markus Sandell (FIN) 2:01.32
7. Thomas Fanara (FRA) 2:01.58
8. Cyprien Richard (FRA) 2:01.66
9. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) 2:01.68
10. Philipp Schoerghofer (AUT) 2:01.80
19. Bode Miller (USA) 2:02.79
20. Tim Jitloff (USA) 2:02.81

Lolo Jones one step closer to Olympics

Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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