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Nicole Schmidhofer gets first World Cup win at Lake Louise; Mikaela Shiffrin 9th

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Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer earned her first World Cup win, while Mikaela Shiffrin placed ninth in her first downhill in 10 months at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Schmidhofer, 29, prevailed by .15 over Swiss Michelle Gisin. German Kira Weidle rounded out an unlikely podium with last season’s top two downhillers out injured (Sofia Goggia and Lindsey Vonn). Full results are here.

Schmidhofer, the 2017 World champion in super-G, made four podiums in her first 128 World Cup starts dating to 2007 coming into Lake Louise. Her best Olympic finish was 12th in the PyeongChang downhill.

Gisin, like Schmidhofer, had her greatest success at major championships, taking super combined gold in PyeongChang and silver at the 2017 Worlds. The younger sister of 2014 Olympic downhill gold medalist Dominique Gisin matched her best World Cup result with her fourth career runner-up.

The 22-year-old Weidle’s best World Cup finish before Friday was eighth.

Shiffrin, who won in Lake Louise a year ago in her fourth World Cup downhill start, tempered expectations in her least comfortable discipline because she’s had one or two days of downhill training in the last six months.

She improved from 21st place to eighth to fourth in training runs the previous three days before finishing 1.23 seconds behind Schmidhofer on Friday.

The women race another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday. A full broadcast schedule is here.

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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.

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 Ted 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, he had a pair of top-five results.

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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