Julia Mancuso

U.S. skiers post season’s best finishes; Austrian wins Cortina d’Ampezzo super-G

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Julia Mancuso finished seventh in a World Cup super-G race Thursday, her first top-10 in 15 races this season and an encouraging sign as she speeds up for the Sochi Olympics.

The three-time Olympic medalist was the fastest in a training run Wednesday and has three more races in Cortina d’Ampezzo this weekend to build on Thursday’s effort.

“Things are going in the right direction and I know I have a lot more in me,” Mancuso said, according to The Associated Press. “Training has been going really well and racing is getting better, so I’m getting there just in time for the Olympics.”

Austrian Elisabeth Goergl won in 1 minute, 24.23 seconds. She was .04 faster than World Cup overall leader Maria Hoefl-Riesch and .32 better than countrywoman Nicole Hosp.

American Stacey Cook took ninth, also her first top-10 this season and best World Cup super-G finish in seven years.

Mancuso’s best chance for an Olympic medal looks to be in the super-G, though none of her previous Olympic medals came in the event. She is the reigning world bronze medalist and has been in the top three in the World Cup super-G standings the previous three seasons.

This season has been a struggle for Mancuso, whose best finish in any World Cup race before Thursday was 12th. However, this season’s results have been very similar to four years ago, when Mancuso won two Olympic silver medals after not placing on the podium in any World Cup races.

In fact, she posted her best pre-Vancouver Olympic finish on Jan. 23, 2010, with an eighth-place finish in a Cortina d’Ampezzo downhill.

Cortina d’Ampezzo super-G
1. Elisabeth Goergl (AUT) 1:24.23
2. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:24.27
3. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 1:24.57
4. Tina Weirather (LIE) 1:24.92
5. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:24.97
6. Tina Maze (SLO) 1:25.15
7. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:25.21
8. Verena Stuffer (ITA) 1:25.47
9. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:25.48
10. Kajsa Kling (SWE) 1:25.50
10. Dominique Gisin (SUI) 1:25.50
32. Julia Ford (USA) 1:26.60
35. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) 1:27.08
37. Laurenne Ross (USA) 1:27.23
DNF. Leanne Smith (USA)

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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