Ted Ligety
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Ted Ligety struggles as Marcel Hirscher wins another giant slalom

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Ted Ligety‘s quest to regain the World Cup giant slalom season title just got a whole lot tougher.

Ligety, the Olympic and World champion in the event, tied for 42nd place in the first of two runs at a World Cup giant slalom in Val d’Isere, France, on Saturday. The top 30 and ties qualified for the second run.

It marked the first time Ligety failed to qualify for the second run of a giant slalom since Dec. 21, 2005.

“Ted was upset about the start time, 9:30 [a.m. local time] start time where the top part’s in the sun and the bottom part’s in the shade,” U.S. coach Sasha Rearick told media in Val d’Isere, presumably talking about changing light conditions for the second run three hours after the 9:30 run. “He was very dramatic about how he was upset about it. … I think he never got his mind off of that.”

Ligety’s failure to qualify for the second run meant he earned zero World Cup points for the race, six days after he also didn’t get any points after falling in a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo.

Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who unseated Ligety as World Cup giant slalom champion last season, won Saturday’s race by 1.29 seconds, his third straight World Cup victory. Full results are here.

Hirscher, also the four-time reigning World Cup overall champion, notched his 34th career World Cup victory, breaking a tie with Bode Miller and moving into solo seventh place all time.

Hirscher also moved 160 points clear of Ligety in the World Cup giant slalom season standings through three of a scheduled 11 races.

At this point, Ligety only controls his own destiny to take the season title if he wins all eight remaining giant slaloms. In that scenario, the best Hirscher could do is tie Ligety (if Hirscher finishes second in all of those races), with Ligety holding the tiebreaker of most wins this season.

In eight giant slaloms last season, Hirscher won five and added second-, third- and fourth-place finishes.

The men’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a Val d’Isere slalom Sunday. Hirscher will try to become the first man to win four straight World Cup races since Austrian great Hermann Maier in January 1998.

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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