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Marcel Hirscher to address Alpine skiing future on primetime TV

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VIENNA (AP) — For once, ski racing fans in Austria have to switch on their TVs in prime time to see Marcel Hirscher live.

On Wednesday, however, they won’t see their hero trying to win yet another race. In fact, they probably never will again.

Hirscher, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and record eight-time overall World Cup champion, is set to reveal his future career plans at a media conference broadcast on national TV.

An invitation sent to media on Friday is labeled “Review, insight, preview. Marcel Hirscher update” and names the location of Wednesday’s event in Salzburg, but doesn’t elaborate.

While Hirscher, as usual, has refrained from public appearances and stayed quiet on his social media channels during the summer, several factors are hinting at retirement.

After wrapping up his unprecedented eighth overall championship in March, the same month he turned 30, Hirscher said he was in doubt about his future in the sport, unsure whether he was still hungry enough to chase for more titles.

The Austrian was expected to present his decision at his annual media day in early August, but he canceled the event just days before.

“The decision on my future is not an easy one for me,” he said at that time. “Should I ski through another World Cup season or not? I still haven’t made my final decision.”

Speculation about Hirscher’s future got new impetus from an Instagram post by Ted Ligety last Saturday.

The American, a long-term rival of Hirscher’s in the giant slalom, wrote he was working on his skiing technique, adding: “I’d tell you how but then @marcel__hirscher would want to come out of retirement,” although Ligety added the hashtags ”#itsaspeculativejoke #donttakeitliterally.”

Hirscher’s doubts about his future are not new.

In the off-season last year, after finally winning Olympic gold in PyeongChang, the only major prize missing from his victory list, he openly considered quitting the sport.

He married long-term girlfriend Laura Moisl and the pair had their first child, but Hirscher returned to the slopes in October for another World Cup season.

He ended up winning nine World Cup races to raise his career total to 67, trailing only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Lindsey Vonn (82) on the all-time list.

Hirscher also won gold and silver at the world championship in Sweden in February for his 13th and 14th medal from a major championship, including nine golds.

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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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