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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.”

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade