Maria Hoefl-Riesch

Maria Hoefl-Riesch takes Cortina downhill; Americans in top 10

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Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch solidified her Olympic favorite status by winning a World Cup downhill race in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Friday.

Americans Julia Mancuso and Stacey Cook posted top-10s for the second straight day after coming into the week with zero top-10s this season.

Hoefl-Riesch extended her World Cup overall and downhill leads by prevailing in 1 minute, 17.84 seconds. Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather was second, .31 behind, followed by Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer.

“The downhill globe is a big goal for me,” Hoefl-Riesch told The Associated Press of the trophy given to World Cup season champions. “The last years it was always impossible because Lindsey [Vonn] was so strong. I already was skiing strong in the last years, but there was never a chance, because I was not consistent enough on every single track like Lindsey.

“And of course I would love to win the Olympic downhill. That’s the biggest race in skiing.”

Cook was fifth, her best World Cup finish since her only two career World Cup podiums in Lake Louise, Alberta, in fall 2012.

Mancuso placed ninth after being seventh in a super-G on Thursday and fastest in a training run Wednesday.

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.

She posted her best pre-Vancouver Olympic finish on Jan. 23, 2010, an eighth in a Cortina d’Ampezzo downhill.

The women race another downhill Saturday and a super-G Sunday.

Cortina d’Ampezzo Downhill
1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:17.84
2. Tina Weirather (LIE) 1:18.15
3. Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT) 1:18.59
4. Lara Gut (SUI) 1:18.60
5. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:18.62
6. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:18.66
7. Tina Maze (SLO) 1:18.76
8. Daniela Merighetti (ITA) 1:18.89
9. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:18.95
10. Andrea Fischbacher (AUT) 1:19.01
15. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) 1:19.40
17. Laurenne Ross (USA) 1:19.43
25. Leanne Smith (USA) 1:19.66
40. Julia Ford (USA) 1:20.71

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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