Men’s Alpine skiing season preview

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Amid ebbs and flows in men’s Alpine skiing, a constant endured the last four seasons — Marcel Hirscher atop the World Cup overall standings.

This season, the Austrian can extend his record for consecutive titles to five and match the record for non-consecutive titles, the five set by Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli in 1993.

Hirscher begins his quest Sunday, at home in the traditional season-opening giant slalom in Soelden. Hirscher notched his first career win on the Rettenbach glacier last year, the first of his eight total World Cup victories for the season.

The knock on Hirscher used to be his relative lack of success at the Olympics and World Championships, but gold medals in the slalom in 2013 and super combined in February bolstered his résumé.

The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games are a little more than two years away. Hirscher, 26, reportedly said he didn’t see himself staying in the sport that long after he was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom, settling for silver. Reinvigorated, he said at the World Championships in Colorado in February that he may compete into 2019.

There are no World Championships or Olympics this season, so the World Cup overall title is the biggest prize.

Hirscher, the leading active men’s skier with 31 World Cup race wins, could be a heavy title favorite given he’s still at a peak age and that his top rivals the last two seasons, in their 30s, may cancel each other out in the overall standings.

Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who won the 2007 and 2009 World Cup overall titles plus medals of every color at the 2010 Olympics, returns after missing most of last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon from playing soccer.

Svindal was second to Hirscher in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, but his form, at age 32, is unknown.

Another veteran Norwegian, Kjetil Jansrud, filled Svindal’s role last season, winning seven races, all downhills and super-Gs, to finish 160 points behind Hirscher in the overall standings.

Hirscher, who specializes in giant slalom and slalom, could sit back and watch Svindal and Jansrud split wins in the downhills and super-Gs and fail to gain enough ground separately to overthrow him in the overall race.

That’s not to say Hirscher won’t have his hands full in his technical events.

Start with his longtime giant slalom rival coming back from his worst World Cup campaign since 2006-07.

American Ted Ligety struggled last season while skiing with four screws in his left hand following a November training injury.

Though the two-time Olympic champion won an unprecedented third straight World Championship in the giant slalom in February, he had his least successful World Cup campaign in eight years — one victory, 11th place in the overall standings and third in the giant slalom standings.

No U.S. man finished in the top 10 of the World Cup overall standings last season — hadn’t happened since 2001 — and Ligety will shoulder most of the hopes this year with Bode Miller not racingTravis Ganong and Steven Nyman will look to build after notching one downhill victory apiece last year.

If Hirscher’s status as the overall favorite is solid, his footing in his most familiar discipline is shaky.

Seven different men won the final seven slaloms last season (including France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange‘s shocker at Worlds). Hirscher eked out his third straight season slalom title by 23 points.

Jansrud, Svindal, Ligety and the rest will hope the overall chase is the one that tightens this year.

MORE ALPINE SKIING: Watch Marcel Hirscher ski with exploding colors

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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