AP

Marcel Hirscher becomes Austria’s most decorated World Cup skier

Leave a comment

SAALBACH-HINTERGLEMM, Austria (AP) — Marcel Hirscher returned to a hill where he raced as a kid to become the most successful Austrian skier of all time.

The seven-time overall champion won a World Cup slalom in his native province of Salzburg on Thursday for his 63rd career victory, overtaking Annemarie Moser-Proell, who had 62 wins when she retired in 1980.

“As a kid I have competed in regional races on this hill. The course was just a bit more to the right,” Hirscher said. “These are great memories. The circle closes here.”

Only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Lindsey Vonn (82) have won more World Cup races.

Moser-Proell was full of praise for the new Austrian record-holder.

“We have never seen such a perfect ski racer before,” she told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “When I see Marcel now, I am amazed that I achieved something similar back then. But you can’t really compare the two eras. Everything is much more professional nowadays.”

Defying difficult course conditions, Hirscher held on to a big first-run lead to finish 0.38 seconds ahead of Loic Meillard of Switzerland, who was only 12th after the opening run and claimed his second podium in two days.

Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was 0.47 behind in third.

“I would have been happy with a top-10 result and I can’t believe I am on the podium for two days in a row,” said Meillard, also runner-up in Wednesday’s GS. “To be on a podium with Marcel and Henrik is truly something special.”

It was the fourth straight win in the discipline for Hirscher, who has won nine of the last 10 World Cup slaloms.

“It sounds amazing but it is very surreal,” Hirscher said about his 63rd win. “There will be a time when I can really enjoy this but for the moment it is really amazing to have another victory, in one of the hardest slalom races I have ever skied in.”

Many racers struggled on the Schneekristall course, which had patches of weak snow in the icy top layer on the lower part of the slope. The second run had to be delayed for 15 minutes to give organizers more time to harden the surface with water and salt.

Kristoffersen called it “the worst conditions I have skied on in my World Cup career.”

“It was really on the limit. It was tough, incredible,” said the Norwegian, who still led Meillard by eight tenths at the final split but trailed the Swiss skier by 0.09 at the finish.

“Normally that would not happen,” Kristoffersen said.

Hirscher started his final run with an advantage of 2.13 seconds over then leader Meillard, allowing him to take a conservative approach.

“On the steep part, you just have to make sure that you come down. It was hardly skiable,” Hirscher said. “All in all it was a good and solid performance.”

Hirscher’s teammate, Michael Matt, who was second after the opening run, dropped to fifth after making mistakes and posting only the 24th fastest time in his final run.

Also, Felix Neureuther dropped from fourth to 27th in his first slalom race in 13 months. The German missed most of last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, and had his comeback delayed by a broken thumb and a concussion.

The race replaced a slalom which was canceled in France last week. The men’s World Cup continues with another slalom in the Italian resort of Madonna Di Campiglio on Saturday. A broadcast schedule is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Is Mikaela Shiffrin chasing records? Not exactly

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)