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

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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