Marcel Hirscher wins first giant slalom world title

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Austrian Marcel Hirscher is now a world champion in three different individual events.

The five-time World Cup overall champion captured his first giant slalom crown in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Friday, adding to his 2013 World title in the slalom and 2015 World title in the super combined.

Hirscher prevailed by .25 of a second after two runs over countryman Roland Leitinger. Norway’s Leif Kristian Haugen earned bronze. Neither Leitinger nor Haugen own any World Cup podiums.

The top American was Olympian David Chodounsky in 11th.

Hirscher, after reportedly spending days sick in bed in the last week, led by .26 after the first run in the morning. The second run was delayed by a half-hour after a flying plane struck an overhead camera that fell into the finish area before the competition.

Hirscher had taken giant slalom silver at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds behind American Ted Ligety. But Ligety was unable to go for a fourth straight GS world title due to season-ending back surgery last month.

Hirscher is the first man to collect world titles in slalom, giant slalom and the combined since Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, whose last crown came in 2001.

“It took me six years to get this world champion title,” said Hirscher, who made his world championships debut in 2009, placing fourth in the GS. “After Schladming [in 2013] and Vail-Beaver Creek [in 2015], always finishing second place. Now it is amazing.”

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Hirscher, who missed gold in the combined by .01 on Monday, is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

The world championships continue with Mikaela Shiffrin going for her third straight slalom title on Saturday (3:45 and 7 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Hirscher goes for another gold in the men’s slalom on Sunday.

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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