Marcel Hirscher
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Marcel Hirscher clinches record fifth straight World Cup overall title

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In a season full of injuries and absences to other contenders, Marcel Hirscher once again reigned supreme.

The Austrian won a record-extending fifth straight men’s Alpine skiing World Cup overall title, clinching the crystal globe when his closest rival, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, decided to skip the World Cup Finals downhill in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Hirscher, 27, entered this week’s four-race finals with a nearly insurmountable 353-point lead over Kristoffersen. If it stands, it will be Hirscher’s largest margin of victory in the World Cup overall standings (309 points, 2013).

Winners receive 100 points per race, but the slalom and giant slalom specialist Kristoffersen has never entered a World Cup downhill, so the overall title was all but conceded to Hirscher before this week. The most points Kristoffersen can accrue this week is 300.

Hirscher has also never raced a World Cup downhill and wasn’t entered Wednesday, either. Swiss Beat Feuz won the race, while Peter Fill became the first Italian man to take a World Cup downhill season title.

Hirscher’s handful ties the record for non-consecutive men’s overall titles held by Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli. The women’s record is held by Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who earned six total and five consecutively in the 1970s.

At 27, Hirscher is likely not done contending for crystal globes. He’s won eight races this season. One victory at the World Cup Finals — most likely in this weekend’s giant slalom or slalom — would tie his highest victory total for one campaign.

He’s never displayed such versatility as this season, winning races in slalom, parallel slalom, giant slalom and his first World Cup super-G victory. Hirscher is now at 39 career World Cup wins, sixth all time among men.

No doubt Hirscher had an easier path to this year’s overall title after season-ending injuries to longtime rivals and Olympic champions Aksel Lund Svindal and Ted Ligety.

In fact, Hirscher trailed Svindal by 107 points in the overall standings when the towering Norwegian tore an ACL crashing in the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, on Jan. 23.

Svindal, 33, and Ligety, 31, are both much older than Hirscher. Kristoffersen, at 21, may be the one who eventually supplants the Austrian.

Hirscher owns World Championships slalom and super combined gold medals and slalom silver from Sochi, but his trophy chest lacks Olympic gold. He must wait another two years to check that off.

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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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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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