Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety wins giant slalom season title in dramatic fashion (video)

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Ted Ligety won the World Cup giant slalom season title by .01 of a second and a points tiebreaker in one of the tightest title races in Alpine skiing history Saturday.

“This has always been the big goal, every single year, to win the giant slalom cup,” Ligety said. “That was by the skin of my teeth today.”

Ligety, the Olympic and world champion in giant slalom, won the World Cup Finals giant slalom race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Saturday.

But he needed help from other skiers to pass Austrian Marcel Hirscher for the season title, which accumulates points from eight races over the last five months.

Hirscher, who had made the podium in six of seven GS races this season, had to finish fourth or worse if Ligety won on Saturday. Ligety skied next to last in the second and final run and into the lead, pushing Hirscher to third.

The last man, first-run leader Felix Neureuther of Germany, needed to finish behind Ligety but ahead of Hirscher for Ligety to win his fifth GS crystal globe in seven years. Neureuther had to ski within a window of .27.

Neureuther crossed the finish .26 behind Ligety and, more importantly, .01 ahead of Hirscher.

“Felix, I owe a lot of beers,” Ligety said.

That meant Ligety and Hirscher tied for 560 points this season, and Ligety won the season title via a tiebreaker. The tie was broken by total GS wins this season. Ligety had five. Hirscher had two.

“That was a tough race this year,” Ligety said. “I was able to win quite a bit of giant slaloms, but it’s really a testament to the mental fortitude of Marcel, to be able to get in there on the podium basically every single race and make it a super, really tough fight this year, and really every year.”

Hirscher, wearing sunglasses at the finish, looked expressionless.

He wore the face of “a beaten man,” according to Eurosport commentators, despite the fact that Hirscher clinched his third straight overall World Cup title Saturday, assuming Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal sticks by his word and isn’t entered in Sunday’s slalom finale.

Lenzerheide Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 2:15.63
2. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:15.66
3. Felix Neureuther (GER) 2:15.89
4. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:15.90
5. Roberto Nani (ITA) 2:16.08
6. Fritz Dopfer (GER) 2:16.27
7. Luca De Aliprandini (ITA) 2:16.35
8. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 2:16.37
9. Matts Olsson (SWE) 2:16.51
10. Steve Missillier (FRA) 2:16.54
14. Tim Jitloff (USA) 2:17.12
15. Bode Miller (USA) 2:17.17

Final World Cup Giant Slalom Standings
1. Ted Ligety (USA) — 560
2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 560
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 378

Shiffrin caps season with blowout victory

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

AP
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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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