Bode Miller, Ted Ligety lead World Alpine Skiing Championships men’s preview

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Bode Miller and Ted Ligety hope to put injury-hindered World Cup seasons behind them and perform like they’ve done so many times at major competitions. At the World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo., it might be their last chance to do so together.

Miller and Ligety, owners of a combined 18 Olympic and Worlds medals, lead the U.S. men into the biggest event of the Alpine skiing season over the next two weeks.

Miller, 37 and a six-time Olympic medalist, hasn’t competed this season due to Nov. 17 back surgery. He’s optimistic of racing the next two weeks, beginning Wednesday, but U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said Sunday that a decision on Miller’s participation hadn’t been made yet.

Ligety, who won three gold medals at the last World Championships in 2013, is off to his slowest start to a season in six years. He’s skiing through pain, with four screws inserted into one of his hands Nov. 22.

In 2013, Ligety became the first man in 45 years to win at least three golds at a single World Championships — claiming his precious giant slalom, the super-G and the super combined.

“The head in the clouds goal would be repeating that, but I don’t know if that’s the realistic goal,” Ligety said on Universal Sports last week. “Winning the giant slalom is the biggest goal. Hopefully I can piece together another medal or two.”

Miller, should he race, and Ligety will face strong competition from World Cup overall leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria, downhill and super-G leader Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and the possible return of Jansrud’s countryman, eight-time Worlds medalist Aksel Lund Svindal.

Here’s the schedule (all ET):

Wednesday, Feb. 4 — Super-G, 1 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 12:55)
Saturday, Feb. 7 — Downhill, 1 p.m. (NBC, Live Extra at 2:30)
Sunday, Feb. 8 — Super Combined Downhill, noon (Universal Sports)
Sunday, Feb. 8 — Super Combined Slalom, 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 5)
Friday, Feb. 13 — Giant Slalom Run 1, 12:15 p.m. (Universal Sports at noon)
Friday, Feb. 13 — Giant Slalom Run 2, 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 4)
Sunday, Feb. 15 — Slalom Run 1, 12:15 p.m. (Universal Sports at noon)
Sunday, Feb. 15 — Slalom Run 2, 4:30 p.m. (NBC, Live Extra)

Full broadcast schedule

Here are five skiers to watch:

Bode Miller
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: No races (injury)
2014 Olympics: Bronze in super-G; sixth in super combined; eighth in downhill; 20th in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: Did not compete (injury)

Miller, already the oldest Olympic Alpine medalist, hopes to become the second-oldest man to win a World Championships medal. It’s a tall ask.

Miller has only taken part in downhill training runs this season due to his recuperating back. But he showed he can contend, as sixth-fastest in a training run in Kitzbuehel, Austria, two weeks ago.

He told The New York Times he won’t race the giant slalom and is unlikely for the super combined. That leaves two races — the downhill and super-G — for Miller to win his first Worlds medal since 2005, when he swept the downhill and super-G in Bormio, Italy.

Miller said in April that this season would likely be his last before retiring, according to the New York Times.

Video: Miller is ‘Grandpa Bode’ in Audi commercial

source:
Ted Ligety had four screws put into his hand in November. (Ted Ligety’s social media)

Ted Ligety
Possible events: Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: One win, three podiums in 18 races; second in giant slalom standings
2014 Olympics: Gold in giant slalom; 12th in super combined; 14th in super-G; DNF in slalom
2013 World Championships: Gold in super-G, giant slalom, super combined; DNF in slalom

Ligety was wise to downplay thoughts of repeating his 2013 World Championships triple. While he has a home-course advantage, Ligety hasn’t finished in the top 10 of any super-G this season and did not finish the only super combined.

He’s no sure thing in the giant slalom, either. Top rival Marcel Hirscher has won four of the five giant slaloms this season and is likely to keep Ligety from a third straight World Cup season title in his prized event. However, the only time Ligety beat Hirscher in a giant slalom this season came at Beaver Creek on Dec. 7.

Ligety is looking to become the third man to win three straight World titles in the same event (Ingemar Stenmark, Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and the first to do it in giant slalom.

Marcel Hirscher
Possible events: Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Six wins, 11 podiums in 16 races; overall and giant slalom leader
2014 Olympics: Silver in slalom; fourth in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: Gold in slalom; silver in giant slalom

Hirscher is likely to become the first man to win four straight World Cup overall titles this season, which is remarkable for three reasons. He’s just 25 years old. He doesn’t ski downhill and rarely super-G. He owns just one gold medal from the Olympics and World Championships.

Hirscher can bolster his big-event reputation by performing well as Austria’s biggest star these next two weeks. He’s known more for slalom, but it appears he has less competition in giant slalom (Hirscher and Ligety have won the last eight World Cup giant slaloms).

In slalom, Hirscher trails German Felix Neureuther in the season standings, and the last four World Cup slaloms have been won by four different men, none of whom are Hirscher.

Kjetil Jansrud
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Five wins in 17 races; downhill and super-G standings leader
2014 Olympics: Gold in super-G; bronze in downhill; fourth in super combined; DNF in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: DNF in super-G (injured)

Just like Lindsey Vonn, the Norwegian Jansrud came back from a major knee surgery suffered in the 2013 World Championships super-G and now leads the World Cup downhill and super-G standings.

Jansrud’s crash in Schladming was not as brutal as Vonn’s. Unlike Vonn, he skied at the Olympics and won the super-G gold medal, plus downhill bronze. He must be the downhill and super-G favorite this week. Jansrud won the World Cup downhill in Beaver Creek on Dec. 5 and finished second in the super-G the next day.

Jansrud’s path at Worlds could be impeded by countryman Aksel Lund Svindal, the reigning World champion in the downhill hoping to make his season debut after rupturing an Achilles tendon playing soccer in October.

One more U.S. speed racer
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Travis Ganong, Steven Nyman won downhills
2014 Olympics: Andrew Weibrecht won super-G silver
2013 World Championships: No notable finishes

It’s been 10 years since an American man other than Miller or Ligety won a World Championships medal. Their teammates have an opportunity to break that streak on home snow the next two weeks.

Ganong, 26, showed the most promise last season when he finished fifth in the Olympic downhill and made his first World Cup podium two weeks later. Ganong won his first World Cup race Dec. 28, a downhill in Santa Caterina, Italy.

Nyman, 32, won a World Cup race on Dec. 19 for the first time in more than two years. He’s the top American in the World Cup downhill standings, fourth place, and the man behind Fantasy Ski Racer.

Then there’s Weibrecht, 28, who owns as many Olympic medals as Lindsey Vonn (two) but has never made a World Cup podium. However, Weibrecht did notch his first World Cup top-five in a super-G in Kitzbuehel two weeks ago.

World Championships women’s preview

Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
Getty
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Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

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