Aksel Lund Svindal, Kjetil Jansrud
AP

Top Alpine skiers say World Cup schedule is unfair

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — Technical events, 23. Speed races, 19.

The men’s World Cup calendar has sparked a debate about fairness. Do downhill and super-G racers have an equal chance to win the overall title when slalom and giant slalom specialists are given four more opportunities to score points?

Hannes Reichelt doesn’t think so.

The super-G world champion has slammed the inequality in the calendar, saying it leaves speed specialists without a realistic chance.

”If you win both speed globes but are not good enough in the giant slalom, you have no chance,” Reichelt said in a recent interview. ”On the other hand, if you win slalom and GS, you’re the overall champion automatically. That’s unfair.”

A member of governing body FIS’ athletes committee, Reichelt said an overall champion should be among the best in at least three disciplines.

But though his Austrian teammate Marcel Hirscher has won four titles in a row while competing almost exclusively in slalom and GS, opinions are divided.

Primarily, the international ski federation doesn’t see a problem here.

”From our view there is a good balance between speed and tech events,” men’s race director Markus Waldner said Friday, two days before the season starts with a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier.

Waldner acknowledged the calendar has been ”slightly overloaded with more slaloms” but stressed ”it’s absolutely possible for the speed guys to go for the overall.”

Reichelt’s criticism, however, is shared by Aksel Lind Svindal, a two-time former champion. The Norwegian is a speed specialist but has also scored heavily in GS.

”There should be the same amount of races. That would be the most fair,” Svindal said. ”If you give away a lot more points in technical event than in speed events, than that is not fair.”

However, Svindal added that for him it’s ”a mathematical question.”

”Marcel is so good. That he has won four in a row is not an argument that it’s not fair,” the Norwegian said.

Svindal finished runner-up to the Austrian two years ago. He recalled how he skied out of his skin in super-G, but was still outscored by the Austrian.

”The worst place I had in super-G two years ago was second, which was historical,” Svindal said. ”But that didn’t really help because Marcel was top three in every slalom. I did something that hadn’t been done since Hermann Maier but he did something that even (Alberto) Tomba hadn’t done.”

Another challenger of Hirscher’s, Kjetil Jansrud, agreed with his Norwegian teammate.

Jansrud led the overall standings last season after winning four of the first six speed events but still ended up 160 points short of Hirscher.

”In a perfect world we would have the same amount of all disciplines. It would be an even fight for the overall,” Jansrud said.

The Olympic super-G champion blamed only himself for losing his lead last year (“I could have won it if I had a very good giant slalom season”) but still believed the current system could do with a little tweak.

A new parallel giant slalom in Alta Badia in December and a city event in Stockholm in February are no ordinary slalom or GS race but still count toward the overall standings.

”We should stick by the classic disciplines,” Jansrud said, calling the new events ”important for the interest in the sport” but not comparable to a usual World Cup race.

”It’s tough if you lose the overall because some guy grabbed the 100 points in a parallel slalom while you won Wengen and Kitzbuehel.”

MORE ALPINE SKIING: Men’s season preview

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

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Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.

Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

Jordan Larson
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Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

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