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Marcel Hirscher becomes Austria’s most decorated World Cup skier

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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.

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MORE: Is Mikaela Shiffrin chasing records? Not exactly

Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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