Career-best speed result for Mikaela Shiffrin

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Lara Gut crashed. Mikaela Shiffrin was ecstatic after finishing fourth. Lindsey Vonn, meanwhile, was just happy to make it down safely in 12th.

It was an up-and-down day for the biggest names in women’s ski racing Sunday as Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia took advantage of bib No. 1 to win the first World Cup super-G of her career.

Stuhec finished 0.31 seconds ahead of Sofia Goggia of Italy and 0.70 in front of two-time overall champion Anna Veith of Austria.

Gut, the defending overall champion, was fastest through the first two checkpoints when she lost control and twisted around in the air. She was fortunate to land with her skis facing downhill and came away with only bruises on her right leg and arm, according to the Swiss team.

“That’s not the way I expected to end my weekend,” Gut, who won Saturday’s downhill, wrote on Facebook. “I’m OK. Ice will be my best friend for the next few days.”

Shiffrin missed the podium by 0.03 seconds and extended her overall lead to 80 points ahead of Gut after the best speed result of her career.

The American’s previous best speed result was 13th.

“That was really fun,” said Shiffrin, the Olympic and two-time world champion in slalom. “It felt like solid skiing, and I was taking the line that we inspected and maybe even more aggressive in some spots.

“Sometimes in speed if you feel good you’re slow, so when I came to the bottom, I was like, ‘That can’t be good.’ Then I saw I was in fourth and I was like, ‘What? No way,'” added Shiffrin, who was racing in Cortina for the first time. “So that was kind of cool, and I’m going to really look at the video and figure out what sort of things I can take from today.”

It was another perfect day in the resort known as the “Queen” of the Dolomites Range, with the Olympia delle Tofane course bathed in sunshine and uninhibited 360-degree views all across the valley.

While her coach, Chris Knight, set the course, Vonn took it easy after crashing the previous two days. Vonn, who has won a record 11 races in Cortina, is still regaining her form in super-G after returning recently from nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries.

It was the first time Vonn left Cortina without a win since 2009.

“It definitely wasn’t the weekend that I was hoping for, but I think all things considered it’s good that I’m still in one piece,” Vonn said. “It was definitely really conservative skiing, but I got to the finish and that was the most important part.

“I really didn’t want to risk everything today and not finish again and then have no confidence for the world championships,” Vonn added. “So I executed my plan, and now I just need a couple of days off. I’m definitely stiff from hitting the fence so hard two times in a row. Get a couple good days of super-G training in and I think I’ll be ready to go.”

Stuhec won the opening three downhills of this season but had never finished better than fourth in super-G.

“It wasn’t a usual super-G,” Stuhec said. “It was faster with a few less turns, but in the end you need to ski whatever they set.”

With her ninth podium result this season, Goggia matched the Italian women’s team record of nine set by Deborah Compagnoni in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Goggia is still seeking her first career win.

“I skied at 70-75 percent of what I can do,” Goggia said. “I was coming off two DNFs in super-G, so I’m happy with the result and I know I can push harder and harder. … I’m just thinking about skiing and doing the right things, and then the win will come.”

It was the first podium result for Veith since she returned in December, 14 months after badly damaging her right knee in a training crash.

Veith, formerly known as Anna Fenninger, achieved the first podium result of her career in a super-G in Cortina in 2009.

“It’s not exactly the same feeling, but it was nearly the same because it was also surprising for me,” Veith said. “I knew I could ski fast, but I had only had fast split times. Today I put together the entire run, and I’m happy that it was enough.”

Still recovering from hip surgery, Julia Mancuso delayed her return after nearly two years out and tested the course instead as a forerunner.

Up next is a parallel city event in Stockholm on Tuesday — the final race before the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, from Feb. 7-19.

MORE: Lately, Lindsey Vonn is crashing more than she’s winning

Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC.

“We look forward to hearing Paris’ presentation at the IOC Executive Board in March 2020,” an IOC spokesperson said in an email when asked for comment on Paris’ choice.

Tahiti beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

Jordan Thompson
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It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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