Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal ends career with downhill silver at Worlds

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After an hour-long delay, the men’s downhill kicked off at the World Championships in Are, Sweden with visibility still questionable due to fog and falling snow.

Topping out at around 80 mph, skiers attacked the shortened course despite the inability to see the approaching terrain.

In his career curtain call, Norway’s five-time World Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Aksel Lund Svindal finished just .02 hundredths of a second behind his countryman Kjetil Jansrud to take home the silver medal.  Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr completed the podium in third.

Full results are here.

Like the U.S.’ Lindsey Vonn, who has reportedly referred to Svindal as her “life coach,” the Norwegian has decided to call it quits after Are, citing his own list of injuries suffered over two decades of competitive racing. Svindal is also the reigning Olympic downhill champion. Last year in PyeongChang, he became the oldest Alpine skier to win an Olympic gold medal.

For Jansrud, the win in Are is his first World Championship victory. The race was also his first downhill since he broke his hand in training on the downhill course in Kitzbuehel back in January.

“I’ve been sharing the podium with Aksel for quite a few times throughout [our careers], and doing this on his last race, at World Champs is an honor,” Jansrud said after the race. “This is a perfect day.”

The U.S.’ Bryce Bennett, who has repeatedly knocked on the downhill podium door throughout this World Cup season, was the top finisher for the Stars and Stripes, ending the day tied for ninth.

The women’s downhill on Sunday morning at 6:25 a.m. ET is the can’t miss race of the 2019 World Championships, as Vonn, long known as the “Speed Queen,” charges down the slopes in Are for one final run of her career. Vonn was back on her skis on Friday in the downhill portion of the Alpine combined, using the run as training, after her ferocious crash in the Super-G earlier this week.

Vonn will be the third skier out of the gate on Sunday morning in the downhill.

Watch the women’s downhill tomorrow live on TV or streaming on NBCSN, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold. An encore presentation of the women’s downhill airs on Sunday afternoon on NBC at 3:00 p.m. ET.

World Championship racing continues for the men on Monday with the Alpine Super combined, with the downhill run scheduled for 5:00 a.m. ET and the deciding slalom run set for 8:30 a.m. ET. Watch the downhill live on TV or streaming on Olympic Channel. The slalom run of the event will air live on TV and streaming on NBCSN. Both races are also streaming live with the NBC Sports Gold Snow Pass.

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David Taylor will not defend wrestling world title

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David Taylor waited five years to get his chance at the world championships. The wait will also be a little longer than expected to defend his world title.

Taylor suffered a knee injury in a May 6 match and underwent surgery, according to his social media. He was to face Pat Downey in two weeks for the U.S.’ spot at 86kg at September’s world championships, but that’s not happening now.

“The nature of competing as a professional athlete is a delicate one,” was posted on Taylor’s accounts. “One year, you find yourself winning the tilte of the 86 kg World Champion and being voted best pound for pound wrestler on earth. In the blink of an eye, you lose yourself in thought over the noisy lull of the MRI machine, hoping that the pain in your knee isn’t what you fear most.”

Taylor, 28, was one of three U.S. men to earn maiden world titles last October in Budapest, along with fellow former NCAA standouts J’den Cox and Kyle Dake.

Taylor upset Iran’s Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani in his first match at worlds. He suffered a knee injury in his second match and said he was kicked in the face in the semifinals. He then dumped Turkey’s top-seeded Fatih Erdin in the final, scoring a two-point takedown in the first 10 seconds and getting a 12-2 tech fall.

“To be able to earn it the way that I earned it, there’s no easy way,” Taylor said. “I wrestled every single best guy every single round.”

Taylor became the oldest first-time Olympic or world champion for USA Wrestling since 2006. He had finished second or third at trials for the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 World teams and the 2016 Olympic team. He is one of four men to win the NCAA Wrestler of the Year award multiple times, doing so in 2012 and 2014 for Penn State.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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