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Mikaela Shiffrin just misses Lake Louise downhill podium

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Two days ago, Austrian racer Nicole Schmidhofer had no World Cup wins.

Now, she can’t lose.

Schmidhofer captured a second straight downhill Saturday with an even faster run. She finished in 1 minute, 47.68 seconds to hold off teammate Cornelia Huetter by 0.44 seconds.

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland was third, 0.47 seconds back, while two-time overall World Cup winner Mikaela Shiffrin wound up fourth.

“It’s unbelievable for me,” the 29-year-old Schmidhofer said. “I’m excited and a little bit surprised that I started the season so great.”

Schmidhofer was nearly a half-second faster than she was the day before. It didn’t always feel that way on the course, she said.

“Yesterday was dark and more bumpy. Today, too easy — the line was too easy and not so fast,” she explained. “It was fast enough.”

After finishing ninth Friday, Shiffrin moved up to fourth. Shiffrin won a World Cup downhill at the venue a season ago. She’s still trying to get up to speed in the downhill.

“After last year, I know how it’s supposed to feel,” Shiffrin said. “That doesn’t mean that I can do it every time, but at least I know how it’s supposed to feel.

“Today’s race versus yesterday’s race, it was a lot closer to that feeling of attacking and letting my skis run. That doesn’t always guarantee a win or even a podium, but it does guarantee that I’m making progress and getting better on my speed skis.”

Lindsey Vonn skipped the speed races to recover from a training crash that injured her knee. Although she planned to retire after the season, Vonn recently posted that she intends to race at Lake Louise next season. It’s her favorite venue.

Before this weekend, Schmidhofer’s best World Cup finish was second in a super-G race on Jan. 20, 2013, in Italy. She won the super-G at the 2017 World Championships.

“I’m really happy,” she said.

Huetter studied a video of Schmidhofer’s run from Friday and tried to replicate it.

“I was a little bit too late in the first gate,” Huetter said. “It took the speed with me. The rest of the track was really good. I skied much better than yesterday.”

Gisin was on the podium once again. She was second the day before.

“I’m so excited and I hope I can take the flow with me and keep going,” Gisin said.

The speed races at Lake Louise close with a super-G on Sunday.

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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

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