Ted Ligety

Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals preview

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Both overall titles are undecided going into the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, this week. Americans, too, have achievements at stake in the final races of the Alpine skiing season.

The men’s overall crystal globe — the trophies given to overall and individual discipline winners — will come down to two-time reigning champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

Hirscher goes into the final four races with a slim four-point lead. A race winner earns 100 points, followed by 80 for second place, 60 for third, 50 for fourth and on down the line.

The women’s overall will come down to German veteran Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Austrian riser Anna Fenninger. Hoefl-Riesch leads by 29 points, but was ill and missed training Tuesday. Fenninger has been on a tear since the Olympics, winning two races and finishing second in another.

The Lenzerheide schedule calls for downhills Wednesday and super-Gs on Thursday. The men will race giant slalom and the women slalom on Saturday and then flip it for Sunday’s final races.

Of the Americans, Ted Ligety has the most at stake. He’s in second place in giant slalom, the event he won at the Olympics, and is fourth in the overall standings. He could win the giant slalom and finish third in the overall with strong results this week.

The giant slalom is of utmost importance, but Ligety hasn’t forgotten about the overall. His goal at the start of the season was to win the overall title for the first time. That’s not possible anymore, but he could still match his third from last year.

“I guess, a mini goal, that’s kind of inconsequential is trying to get third in the overall,” Ligety said. “[Alexis] Pinturault and I have a little mini fight for that. I think it’s somewhat close. He definitely has an advantage, but I feel if I can have some good speed results here I can make that a little bit closer race.”

Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller could cap his best overall season in six years with top-10 finishes in the overall, downhill and super-G.

Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin has already successfully defended her slalom title and can’t mathematically win the giant slalom nor the overall. But she would like to finish the season with another first — her maiden World Cup giant slalom race win.

Here’s a globe-by-globe rundown:

Men’s Overall

Standings
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 1,050
2. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 1,046
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 819
4. Ted Ligety (USA) — 744
8. Bode Miller (USA) — 525

This one could come down to the final race between Hirscher and Svindal. Hirscher is a noted technical specialist, having won crystal globes in the slalom and giant slalom. Svindal won the downhill and super-G crystal globes the last two seasons.

Hirscher is attempting to become the third man ever to win three straight overall titles and the first since American Phil Mahre from 1981-83. Svindal is looking for his first overall title since 2009.

Ligety could get as high as No. 3, which would match his best overall finish from last season.

Miller could get as high as No. 5 with a spectacular week and some help, but finishing in the top 10 is a worthy accomplishment for a 36-year-old who missed all of last season following knee surgery. Miller’s set for his best World Cup overall finish since winning the crystal globe in 2008.

Men’s Downhill

Standings
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 525
2. Hannes Reichelt (AUT) — 360
3. Erik Guay (CAN) — 357
7. Bode Miller (USA) — 232
9. Travis Ganong (USA) — 210

Svindal has this title wrapped up, his third straight downhill crystal globe. Miller, who was fifth two years ago, could finish as high as fourth. Ganong, who is seemingly improving every week, will better his 18th-place finish from last season.

Men’s super-G

Standings
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 346
2. Patrick Kueng (SUI) — 239
3. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) — 227
6. Bode Miller (USA) — 160

Svindal also has this title clinched, his fourth straight in the discipline. Miller could secure his highest super-G standings finish since winning the crystal globe in 2007.

Men’s Giant Slalom

Standings
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 510
2. Ted Ligety (USA) — 460
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 378

Ligety’s in for a fight for his fifth giant slalom globe in seven seasons. If Ligety wins the Lenzerheide giant slalom, Hirscher must finish fifth or lower for Ligety to win the crystal globe outright. Hirscher has made the podium in six of seven World Cup giant slaloms this season.

Men’s Slalom

Standings
1. Felix Neureuther (GER) — 470
2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 465
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) — 430

The German took over the lead via his win in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Sunday, albeit a very slim one. Hirscher is the reigning World Cup slalom champion, beating Neureuther by 244 points last year. Kristoffersen also has an outside shot.

Women’s Overall

Standings
1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) — 1,180
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 1,151
3. Tina Weirather (LIE) — 943
6. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 773

It’s not as tight as the men’s overall, but Hoefl-Riesch and Fenninger could also take this crystal globe down to the finale. Hoefl-Riesch has seen her lead drastically fall since the Olympics due to Fenninger’s two victories and a second-place finish. Hoefl-Riesch is, at her best, better in the downhill and slalom, while Fenninger has the edge in super-G and giant slalom.

Hoefl-Riesch is all but guaranteed to finish in the top three of the overall standings for an eighth straight season, remarkable consistency for the 29-year-old who may retire this year.

Fenninger, 24, has steadily risen from 26th to 12th to fifth to third the last four seasons. The last Austrian woman to take the overall crystal globe was Nicole Hosp in 2007.

Shiffrin finished fifth overall last season despite not entering any downhill, super-G or combined races. She turns 19 on Thursday and could move into the top five in Lenzerheide.

Women’s Downhill

Standings
1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) — 504
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 424
3. Tina Weirather (LIE) — 400
13. Stacey Cook (USA) — 143
16. Julia Mancuso (USA) — 134

Fenninger must win to have any shot of taking the globe outright from Hoefl-Riesch. Even if Fenninger wins, Hoefl-Riesch can finish 12th or better to win her first downhill season title.

Women’s super-G

Standings
1. Lara Gut (SUI) — 348
2. Tina Weirather (LIE) — 310
3. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 277
13. Stacey Cook (USA) — 80
14. Julia Mancuso (USA) — 78

Gut doesn’t have to worry about Weirather, who’s done for the season due to injury. Fenninger, though, could derail the Swiss’ bid for her first crystal globe. Gut can clinch by finishing eighth or better regardless of what Fenninger does.

Women’s giant slalom

Standings
1. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (SWE) — 432
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 418
3. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) — 299
6. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 235

This has been the most unpredictable discipline — men or women — this season. Five women have won the seven races this season, but it’s Fenninger who’s on a roll, winning the last three and favored to overtake Lindell-Vikarby in the finale.

Shiffrin improved from 19th in the giant slalom last season with second- and third-place finishes. She’s said her next goal is to win a World Cup giant slalom race. Shiffrin could move all the way up to third if she does that in Lenzerheide.

Women’s Slalom

Standings
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 538
2. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) — 408
3. Marlies Schild (AUT) — 325

Shiffrin clinched this crystal globe for the second straight year by winning in Are, Sweden, on Saturday. She could have extra motivation to win her fifth slalom of the season to surpass her total from last year.

Sullivan Award nominees announced

Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC.

“We look forward to hearing Paris’ presentation at the IOC Executive Board in March 2020,” an IOC spokesperson said in an email when asked for comment on Paris’ choice.

Tahiti beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

Jordan Thompson
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It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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