Ted Ligety stuns in World Cup Finals downhill; new overall leader

Ted Ligety
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Olympic giant slalom champion Ted Ligety posted his first career World Cup downhill podium at the opening race of the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Ligety tied for second behind Austrian winner Matthias Mayer. Mayer, the Olympic downhill champion, prevailed in 1 minute, 29.99 seconds, .11 better than Ligety and Italian Christof Innerhofer.

Ligety, who doesn’t race much downhill anymore, finished in the top 10 of a World Cup downhill for the second time in his career. He also finished fourth in a Lenzerheide downhill in 2007.

“I knew entering today that I had a good chance on this kind of a hill,” Ligety said. “It’s not a typical downhill hill, so it suits kind of a guy that has more GS skills like me.”

The result pushed Ligety from fourth to third in the overall World Cup standings with three races left in Lenzerheide. Ligety leads France’s Alexis Pinturault by five points for third.

Ligety became the eighth man to earn World Cup podiums in all five disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined — according to Infostrada.

“It’s nice to try to gain some points on Pinturault with third place, but that’s not really the important race here,” said Ligety, who is in second place in the giant slalom and has a small chance to move into first there Saturday. “To be on the podium in every single event now in my career is a pretty cool accomplishment.”

The race for the overall World Cup title remains tight.

Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal picked up 45 points with his fifth-place finish Wednesday. He had already clinched the season title in the downhill, so to finish off the podium wasn’t what he was looking for.

Svindal moved 41 points ahead of Austrian Marcel Hirscher in the overall standings. Svindal should increase that lead in Thursday’s super-G, but Hirscher is stronger in the giant slalom and slalom this weekend.

Svindal called it a 50-50 competition between him and Hirscher going forward.

“If I have to put money on someone, I have no idea who it would be,” Svindal said. “Hopefully it will be on me.”

Americans Travis Ganong and Bode Miller were sixth and eighth, respectively, on Wednesday. 

Miller, a six-time Olympic medalist, finished eighth in the season downhill standings after missing all of last season following knee surgery.

Ganong, 25, finished ninth in the downhill standings, continuing an ascent from 44th to 30th to 18th the previous three seasons.

Lenzerheide Downhill
1. Matthias Mayer (AUT) 1:29.99
2. Christof Innerhofer (ITA) 1:30.10
2. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:30.10
4. Peter Fill (ITA) 1:30.12
5. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 1:30.19
6. Travis Ganong (USA) 1:30.51
7. Sandro Viletta (SUI) 1:30.55
8. Bode Miller (USA) 1:30.61
9. Carlo Janka (SUI) 1:30.79
10. Adrien Theaux (FRA) 1:30.98

Final Downhill Standings
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 570
2. Hannes Reichelt (AUT) — 360
3. Erik Guay (CAN) — 357
8. Bode Miller (USA) — 264
9. Travis Ganong (USA) — 250
26. Ted Ligety (USA) — 80

World Cup Finals preview

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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