Wendy Holdener
AP

Holdener wins Alpine combined title at worlds, again

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ARE, Sweden — Wendy Holdener retained her Alpine combined title at the skiing world championships Friday by beating Petra Vlhova by 0.03 seconds.

Holdener, who also won the team event at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, has now earned gold medals at three straight major championships. She is the fifth woman to win back-to-back world titles in the combined.

The Swiss racer was in fifth place after the downhill leg, and lost time on Vlhova in the top section of the slalom. She was tied with the Slovakian skier after the third checkpoint, but made up ground in the final stretch.

Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway was third, 0.45 seconds behind Holdener.

Watch the men’s downhill on Saturday, 6:25 a.m. ET

Everything fell into place for Holdener, with her two biggest threats — Mikaela Shiffrin and Michelle Gisin — not competing in the event. Shiffrin, who won the super-G on Tuesday, was sitting it out to preserve energy for next week’s giant slalom and slalom, while Gison was sidelined because of a knee injury.

Then the downhill leg of the event was shortened because of poor visibility, giving slalom specialists — like Holdener — a crucial advantage.

She was in a good position after a clean run in the downhill, with only Ramona Siebenhofer, Ilka Stuhec and then Mowinckel ahead of her. Corinne Suter was in fourth place but decided to skip the slalom.

Unheralded Canadian skier Roni Remme went off under the floodlights at No. 3 in the slalom and held the lead until Vlhova — eighth after the downhill — claimed the lead.

Holdener went two skiers later and started with an advantage of 0.30 seconds over Vlhova. That was soon wiped out. But to the backdrop of cowbells and loud cheers by Swiss fans, Holdener clawed it back and stretched at the finish line to edge in front of Vlhova.

Mowinckel held onto third place, 0.04 seconds ahead of Siebenhofer — the leader after the downhill.

The winner of the event is determined by adding the times from one high-speed downhill run and one shorter slalom leg.

With seven skiers — including Lindsey Vonn — choosing not to take part in the slalom leg, the field was reduced to 26 competitors.

It further damages an event that is already under threat as the International Ski Federation decides on the future of Alpine skiing’s original Olympic discipline, which was introduced at the 1936 Winter Games. FIS could replace Alpine combined with parallel slalom racing at future Olympics and world championships.

The men’s combined is on Monday.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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