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

Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule

Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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