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Max Franz wins Beaver Creek super-G

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Now this was a party: the five of them crammed onto the stage to spray sparkling wine and pose for a few pictures.

Rarely has a podium been this crowded — or this lively.

Austrian Max Franz conquered the snow and fog Saturday for his first World Cup super-G victory in a tightly contested affair that resulted in five racers sharing the top three spots.

Franz finished in 1 minute, 1.91 seconds to hold off Mauro Caviezel of Switzerland by 0.33 seconds. There was a three-way tie for third among Norwegian teammates Aksel Lund Svindal and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Italy’s Dominik Paris. The trio was 0.41 seconds behind.

After the race, the celebration kicked up a notch.

“It’s the first time I’ve been on the podium with five guys,” the veteran Svindal said. “This is better. We don’t have to fight. Let’s tie and get everyone up there and it’s a party.”

The only other time a World Cup race ended with three racers tied for third place was a downhill in 1973, according to information provided by the International Ski Federation.

“It’s crazy, yeah?” Paris said.

A crazy day all around.

Racing was delayed an hour as course workers cleared a considerable amount of snow from the track. With snowflakes still falling, Franz found just a little more speed than everyone else.

For that, he credits a mistake near the top when he went too straight into a turn.

“In my head, I made a mistake so I have to push more,” explained Franz, who won a downhill last weekend at Lake Louise. “The race was really good.”

This marked the second straight day Caviezel and Svindal wound up on the podium. They finished in the same spots during the downhill.

“It’s just great,” Caviezel said. “I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a good feeling.”

To pass the time during the delay, Svindal said a group of competitors played the card game “UNO.” He kept losing because, as he found out later, the dealers were good-naturedly stacking the deck.

“I was like, ‘Really, this is not my lucky day,’” Svindal said.

Turns out, it was. He had a little help, though.

The third racer on the hill, Kilde had a solid run and jumped on the radio to give Svindal a quick course report.

Kilde’s advice: Stay in the tracks.

“I told him what he should think about, and where the tricky spots were and where it’s fast,” Kilde said.

Svindal took mental notes and followed a similar line to wind up with the same time as Kilde and Paris.

“The conditions were actually not too bad,” Svindal said. “It was snowing like crazy for a while. When you have that good of a course crew, you actually feel confident that the skiing will actually be OK. You know they wouldn’t start a race unless the conditions were OK.”

Svindal has 15 top-three finishes at the World Cup stop.

“I’ve had a lot of success here,” he said. “Happy to be here every time.”

Svindal suffered a left thumb injury during a recent training crash that’s forced him to tape the ski pole to his glove. It means he can’t push off out of the starting gate.

No matter. Svindal still generates speed.

There were some surprising charges from back in the pack when the snow briefly stopped. Christoph Krenn of Austria began 35th and moved up to sixth, while Klemen Kosi of Slovenia started 33rd and finished ninth. American Steven Nyman had a big leap, too, going from No. 64 to 20th.

The top performance by the U.S. was turned in by Travis Ganong, who finished 15th as he steadily makes his way back from a knee injury.

“I just was ready to push harder and turn my brain off and just enjoy it,” Ganong explained. “That’s what it takes. It’s amazing how your mind can dictate how your results are. When you’re thinking too much, it gets in the way of skiing sometimes.”

Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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