Alexis Pinturault
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Pinturault wins combined at Alpine worlds thanks to slalom leg

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Alexis Pinturault finally transferred his consistent winning form on the World Cup circuit into a gold medal at a major championship.

The French skier produced the second-fastest slalom leg in the Alpine combined at the world championships on Monday to rise from 24th place after the downhill portion and win by 0.24 seconds.

Stefan Hadalin of Slovenia was second and Marco Schwarz of Austria took bronze, 0.46 behind Pinturault.

It was Pinturault’s first major individual gold, even though he has won the World Cup combined title on four occasions.

One of three Olympic medals won by Pinturault was silver in the combined in Pyeongchang last year. At the worlds, he won gold in the team event in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2017 and bronze in giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in 2015.

While his victory didn’t come as a surprise, especially with Marcel Hirscher — the defending Olympic champion in combined — not entering the event, Hadalin’s silver certainly was. The 23-year-old Hadalin hasn’t finished in the top five in any discipline on the World Cup circuit.

Hadalin was the only skier to post a quicker time than Pinturault in the slalom leg, capitalizing on going out on fresh snow as the first racer.

Schwarz, who is also 23 and is the current leader of the World Cup combined standings, won his first individual medal of any color at a major championship.

Dominik Paris, the super-G champion, led after the downhill portion — and was 1.52 seconds ahead of Pinturault — but his lead was wiped out by halfway in the slalom. He placed ninth.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the latest member of the “Skiing Cochrans” family from the United States, fell from second place after the downhill to an 18th-place finish.

The top six in the standings were all slalom specialists, perhaps explaining why the combined is under threat as the International Ski Federation decides on the future of Alpine skiing’s original Olympic discipline.

FIS could replace Alpine combined with parallel slalom racing at future Olympics and world championships.

Chilean skier Henrik von Appen crashed in the downhill leg and didn’t race in the slalom. He skidded on an icy section about a third of the way down the course and landed on his left hip on top of his skies, before sliding down into the safety nets.

Von Appen could be heard screaming after he crashed. Medical staff tended to him.

It wasn’t immediately clear what type of injury he may have sustained. There was no immediate word from FIS or the Chilean ski federation.

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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