Marcel Hirscher becomes Austria’s most decorated World Cup skier

AP
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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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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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