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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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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