Marcel Hirscher is fourth male Alpine skier to win 50 World Cups

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Austrian ski superstar Marcel Hirscher became the fourth man to reach 50 career World Cup wins, taking a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Hirscher won his fifth race of the season, a strong recovery from breaking his left ankle in August slalom training.

He edged countryman Michael Matt by .05 combining times from two runs. Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen was third. The top American was Mark Engel in 24th.

The World Cup men’s career wins list:

Ingemark Stenmark (SWE) — 86
Hermann Maier (AUT) — 54
Alberto Tomba (ITA) — 50
Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 50

“Alberto Tomba is a name where you think, oh my God, he is a real living ski legend,” Hirscher said.

Hirscher has now won at least five races in seven straight seasons. He already holds the record of six straight World Cup overall titles.

He leads this season’s standings, eyeing a seventh straight, through 17 of 37 races.

If Hirscher stays on his recent pace, he would pass Stenmark’s 86 wins in 2022 or 2023.

But Hirscher has always cautioned that he could retire after any season, even without an Olympic gold medal.

Hirscher was fourth and fifth in two races at Vancouver 2010 and was upset for slalom gold in Sochi by countryman Mario Matt, the older brother of Michael.

Hirscher grabbed two golds and one silver at each of the last three world championships.

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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