‘Lucky loser’ Diggins crashes sprint final, gets first World Cup win of season

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Jessie Diggins, one half of the U.S. sprint team to win the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in cross-country skiing in 2018, won her first World Cup race of the season in Italy.

With the start of the 2019 Nordic World Ski Championship just days away, Diggins clawed her way to the front of the pack in the women’s sprint, stretching at the line to overtake Germany’s Sandara Ringwald for the win.

“There’s been lots of ups-and-downs this year,” Diggins said after the race. “I’ve been sick a lot, there’s been a lot of doubt, and sometimes losing my self-confidence, so i think it’s good to remember that you don’t know what’s going to happen until the last 100m of any race and you have to keep believing in yourself and keep pushing the whole way.”

Diggins was fortunate to even make it through to the final race. Her 3 minutes and 32.14 second time in the semifinals was the slowest of the six women to advance to the final, but it was fast enough to get her in, and that’s all she needed.

Diggins’ U.S. teammate Sadie Bjornsen also advanced to the final, finishing the day in fifth. Bjornsen finished the day in fifth. Sophie Caldwell, currently fourth in World Cup sprint points this season, also raced for the U.S. but was unable to advance past her quarterfinal heat in Cogne.

Full results are here.

The top three sprinters on the World Cup this season, Sweden’s Stina Nilsson and Maja Dahlqvist along with Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla were not racing this weekend in Italy. Nilsson has not raced since she injured herself in a race in January in Estonia.

In the men’s sprint, Italy’s Frederico Pellegrino claimed the top podium spot, while the U.S. Simi Hamilton posted his best finish of the season, ending up just off the podium in fourth.

Full results are here.

Racing continues in Cogne, Italy tomorrow with the women’s 10km (3:45 a.m. ET) and men’s 15km (6:30 a.m. ET). Watch both races live on OlympicChannel.com or with an NBC Sports Gold Snow Pass.

Ted Ligety scales back race schedule

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Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety is scaling back his race schedule as he enters the final portion of his decorated Alpine skiing career.

Ligety, a 34-year-old who has endured many injuries since his last World Cup win in 2015, said he will race strictly giant slaloms this year. The World Cup season starts in late October.

“So it’ll be a little bit easier schedule on my body,” Ligety said in a KPCW radio interview in his native Park City, Utah. “I’ll be able to be home a little bit more as well, and then we see. I mean, I would like to keep going as long as I feel like I can win races and feel healthy. That’s really the biggest part, and nowadays I have a 2-year-old son, and there’s more factors than there was when I was 25 years old.”

Ligety, nicknamed “Mr. GS” for his giant slalom prowess, has a 2014 Olympic gold medal and three world titles in that event.

He also owns an Olympic combined title from 2006 and world titles in the super-G and combined from 2013, but he hasn’t won a race in one of those disciplines since January 2014. And since then, he has undergone back and knee surgeries and dealt with hip problems.

“There’s a lot of hard miles on my body up to this point, but I’m still enjoying it,” said Ligety, whose 321 World Cup starts are the most among active Olympic medalists now that Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal have retired. “Right now, I feel really healthy and trying to get to a point where I feel I can win races. That’s the goal right now.”

Ligety, a four-time Olympian, has not publicly committed to a 2022 Olympic run.

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Usain Bolt calls out ’embarrassing’ Jamaican sprinters

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Usain Bolt called out his fellow Jamaican Olympic medalists Yohan Blake and Warren Weir as well as the next generation of his countrymen who have been slower than the top U.S. sprinters in the two years since Bolt retired.

“I’ve walked away from the sport, and no one is there to pick it up, pick up the pieces, keep the level,” Bolt said in a Jamaica Gleaner interview published last week. “It’s embarrassing for the country. Every time I see people, [they say] come back. We need you. But you have so much talent in Jamaica.”

In 2018, Jamaica had none of the 10 fastest men in the world for the first time since 2003. This year, Blake is the lone Jamaican who has broken 10 seconds, while five Americans have done so.

Blake, 29, is the second-fastest sprinter in history and beat Bolt at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic trials but has lost multiple steps since a series of leg injuries beginning in 2013.

Led by Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin, the U.S. could sweep the 100m podium at the world championships in late September. Jamaica hasn’t missed an Olympic or world podium in the men’s 100m since 2004.

While Bolt earned most of those medals, Jamaica boasted a deep group with Blake, Weir, former world-record holder Asafa PowellNesta Carter and Michael Frater. All are now 29 years or older.

“I don’t think it is going to get any better because I think these youngsters are a little bit spoiled,” Bolt said of his countrymen, according to Reuters.

Bolt reacted to Blake, Weir and fellow veteran Kemar Bailey-Cole splitting from Glen Mills, the coach whom they shared with Bolt. Bolt said that sprinters who left Mills “disrespected” the coach on social media.

“[Mills] took you to the highest level that you have ever been,” he said. “They probably won’t get back to that level, but he has brought you there. … If you don’t work hard and you don’t train hard, how can you be great? When Warren Weir got to the level that he is, I remember Warren Weir taking days off to go to Florida and [fellow sprinter] Jason Young. Just randomly, take a week off from training. … frolicking and just relaxing. Who does that in a season?

“These youngsters, they feel like because they got the contract … they feel like they’ve made it. That is the problem. No one wants to listen. No one has the fight in them or the anger to be great. If you don’t want it, then it don’t matter how much I speak. I’ve spoken to all these young athletes from Bailey-Cole to Blake, all of them, I’ve had conversations. You know what I mean? They don’t want to hear it.”

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