Marcel Hirscher’s historically dominant win just about ends Ted Ligety’s title hopes (video)

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Ted Ligety‘s bid to win a third straight World Cup giant slalom season title is all but over after Austrian rival Marcel Hirscher won in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Sunday.

Hirscher prevailed by a massive 3.28 seconds over two runs, the largest margin of victory in a men’s World Cup race in more than 35 years, according to ski-db.com.

“I risked everything,” Hirscher said, “but I won everything.”

German Felix Neureuther was second. Ligety was fourth and tipped his cap.

“Impressive piece of skiing,” he told media in Germany.

Ligety dropped to 188 points behind Hirscher in the World Cup giant slalom standings with two races left. A victory nets 100 points. The top 30 skiers earn points on a descending scale, giving Ligety almost no chance of overtaking Hirscher.

Hirscher notched his 30th World Cup victory and increased his overall standings lead. The 25-year-old is in line to win a fourth straight World Cup overall title, something no man has ever done.

Ligety captured the season’s biggest giant slalom, the World Championship in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Feb. 13. But Hirscher has won five of six World Cup giant slalom races this season.

“It was not the greatest year,” Ligety said, “but we salvaged it with the World Championships. That’s at least one bright spot.”

Hirscher also denied Ligety’s bid for a third straight World Cup giant slalom title in 2012. On Sunday, he moved into solo third among Austrian men in all-time World Cup wins. Hermann Maier won 54 races, and Benjamin Raich is at 36.

One must wonder if Ligety can reclaim the World Cup giant slalom title from Hirscher next season. Yes, Ligety is skiing with four screws in his left hand from a November training injury.

But he’s also five years older than Hirscher. Ligety’s only victories this season came on U.S. snow. The World Cup circuit is primarily run in Europe.

And though Ligety hasn’t lost an Olympics or Worlds giant slalom since 2010, he barely kept his World Cup giant slalom title in 2014, by .01 of a second and a points tiebreaker at the World Cup Finals last March.

The men’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill and super-G in Kvitfjell, Norway, next Saturday and Sunday.

Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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