Ted Ligety suffers DNF on last slalom run; Austria’s Mario Matt wins

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Giant slalom winner Ted Ligety of the U.S. (pictured) was unable to come up with a second medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Ligety was one of multiple big names that failed to finish the second run of today’s men’s slalom as the world’s best found the Rosa Khutor course especially problematic.

The American had finished sixth after the first run at just .11 of a second off the bronze medal position.

With Ligety’s DNF, the U.S. Alpine skiing squad will end their Sochi Olympics with five medals: The golds from Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin in women’s slalom, the silver and bronze in super-G from Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller respectively, and the bronze from Julia Mancuso in the super combined.

Afterwards, Ligety told NBCOlympics.com’s Alan Abrahamson that he wasn’t too upset over the outcome:

Austria’s Mario Matt, who’s won two world titles but did not qualify to compete four years ago in Vancouver, won the gold with a second run that helped him knock off countryman Marcel Hirscher by .28 of a second on two-run aggregate time.

Matt, who will turn 35 in April, is now the oldest Olympic champion ever in Alpine skiing. He’s taken that distinction from Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who won the 2006 men’s super-G at 34 years, 170 days.

Prior to Matt’s breakthrough today, the Olympics had not been kind to him. He didn’t compete at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games either due to injury, and while he made the 2006 Torino Games, he finished 34th in the combined and skied out of his first run in the slalom.

Poor performances kept him out of Vancouver, but he’s come back in recent years. He claimed bronze in the slalom at the 2013 worlds, and became the oldest to win a World Cup slalom event last December.

Hirscher, the reigning world champion in the slalom, now has his first Olympic medal after two near-misses in Vancouver (fourth, giant slalom; fifth, slalom) and an earlier one in these Sochi Games (fifth in GS).

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, 19 years and 235 days old, won the bronze to become the youngest-ever men’s medalist in Olympic Alpine skiing.

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ALPINE SKIING – MEN’S SLALOM
1. Mario Matt (AUT), 1:41.84

2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT), 1:42.12
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR), 1:42:67

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

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Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.

Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

Jordan Larson
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Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

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