Stefan Luitz beats Marcel Hirscher for first World Cup win

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Stefan Luitz of Germany used a powerful finish to capture a World Cup giant slalom Sunday, ending Austrian standout Marcel Hirscher’s five-race winning streak in the discipline.

Luitz finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 36.38 seconds as he edged Hirscher by 0.14 seconds to break Hirscher’s streak that dates to last season. Thomas Tumler of Switzerland was third for his first World Cup podium. Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety tied for eighth place as the top American.

The last racer of the day, Luitz made up ground near the bottom. Luitz dropped to the snow in exuberance after seeing his name in first. Understandable considering seven-time World Cup overall winner Hirscher had won nine of the last 10 GS races on the circuit entering the day.

“Marcel is the best skier in the world for the last seven, eight years,” said Luitz, who picked up his first World Cup win and kept Hirscher from his 60th. “It’s unbelievable to be faster in those runs than Marcel.”

For going so fast, Luitz thanked his dad, who just so happens to be his ski technician. Luitz was able to take risks late in the race because he was feeling confident on the snow and trusted his surgically repaired knee. Luitz was on the podium twice last season before tearing a ligament in his left knee.

“I’m feeling really, really good,” Luitz said. “To come back after this injury and win the first race of the season, it’s unbelievable.”

By taking second, Hirscher has made the top-three in 16 straight World Cup GS events. It’s also his ninth World Cup podium at Beaver Creek.

Hirscher had the lead despite two mistakes. He had a feeling it wouldn’t be enough.

“Have you seen the last part? I sprayed a little bit,” said Hirscher, who recently became a new father. “This little bit of spray was too much. … Stefan went perfectly on the edge. He made it better.”

Tumler had quite an afternoon, moving from No. 48 to 21st in the first run and then leading for a good portion of the final run. He was hoping for a top-15 finish and got a whole lot more.

“I can’t describe my feelings,” Tumler said. “Just amazing to be on the podium with Marcel.”

Tumler recently trained a day with Hirscher. He inspired Tumler.

So did rooming with Swiss teammate Mauro Caviezel, who took second in both the downhill and super-G races over the weekend. Caviezel received a framed picture as a present for each of his podium finishes and said to Caviezel he hoped to earn one as well.

“Now, I have one,” Tumler said.

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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