Chad le Clos clips Caeleb Dressel at short course worlds

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Chad le Clos exacted some revenge against the U.S. from the last two years, edging Caeleb Dressel in the 100m butterfly at the world short-course championships in Hangzhou, China, on Thursday.

The South African le Clos held off Dressel, the new American golden boy, by .21 to win his fourth straight short-course world title in the event. Le Clos had struggled recently in the 100m fly in the longer, Olympic-sized pool, missing the final at 2017 Worlds (won by Dressel) after sharing silver with rival Michael Phelps and Laszlo Cseh in Rio.

Le Clos called Thursday the biggest race of his short-course career.

“I was anxious because I was waiting the whole day for this, the whole week and the past three months because I knew this one could come,” he said, according to FINA. “I really wanted to race Dressel. He is the best short-course yards swimmer, and I am the best meters swimmer.”

Dressel, who earned a Phelps record-tying seven golds at 2017 Worlds, may have been slowed in the 100m fly final by racing 25 minutes after his 50m freestyle semifinal. He later anchored a U.S. 4x50m mixed-gender medley relay to gold in a world-record time.

“The fly could have been better, but you just move on and learn from it,” he said, according to FINA.

Short-course worlds are held in even-numbered years in a 25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used at the Olympics. U.S. Olympic champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Lilly King are among those not competing this week.

WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

In other events Thursday, Lisa Bratton was the surprise 200m backstroke champion, edging the U.S.’ best long-course backstroker, Kathleen Baker, by .08. Bratton, 22, missed the Rio Olympic team by one spot at trials and ranks fourth in the U.S. in the long-course 200m back this year.

Mallory Comerford added 100m free bronze to her 200m silver from earlier in the week, breaking Manuel’s American record and giving her five medals through the meet’s first three days.

Leah Smith earned 800m free bronze, as she did at long-course worlds last year.

Worlds continue Friday, with finals streaming live on OlympicChannel.com and the Olympic Channel app.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

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Lara Gut-Behrami gets first win in 2 years; Mikaela Shiffrin’s lead shrinks

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, the last woman other than Mikaela Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title, notched her first World Cup race victory in two years on Friday. Meanwhile, chasers gained on the absent Shiffrin in this season’s overall standings.

Gut-Behrami led a host-nation one-two in a downhill in Crans-Montana. She was followed by downhill standings leader Corinne Suter (eight tenths behind) and Austrian Stephanie Venier (.92 back). Full results are here.

Shiffrin has not raced since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova was fourth on Friday for her best career World Cup speed race finish. Vlhova, Shiffrin’s top rival in slalom the last few seasons, moved to 104 points behind Shiffrin in the World Cup overall standings through 27 of 40 scheduled races.

Race winners receive 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place skier. The season runs through March 22.

American Breezy Johnson was fifth, tying her best World Cup finish in nearly two years. Italian Federica Brignone tied for seventh, moving 77 points shy of Shiffrin’s lead.

Vlhova or Brignone can pass Shiffrin with similar finishes in Saturday’s downhill (4:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold) and a podium in Sunday’s combined (7:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and Gold).

Gut-Behrami, a 25-time World Cup race winner, was the world’s top skier in 2016. She was in second place to Shiffrin in the 2017 World Cup overall standings when she ruptured her left ACL and sustained meniscus damage. Shiffrin since won the last three overall titles.

Friday marked Gut-Behrami’s first win since Jan. 21, 2018. She recently went nearly one year between podium finishes.

“Sometimes, I’ve been struggling with myself and putting myself under pressure because I wanted to do it again,” Gut-Behrami said. “Then I started thinking, and then I made mistakes.”

Suter, who came into the season without a World Cup win, leads the downhill season standings by 120 points. She can clinch her first World Cup discipline title in Saturday’s penultimate downhill.

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