Tommy Ford returns to giant slalom podium in Japan

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Tommy Ford earned his second World Cup podium of the season, and his career, at a giant slalom in Naeba, Japan on Saturday.

Ford, a two-time U.S. Olympian, finished third, 1.07 seconds behind first-time Croatian winner Filip Zubcic. Zubcic came from 12th after the first run to prevail by .74 over Swiss Marco Odermatt.

Full results are here.

Ford returned to the podium for the first time since his breakout victory in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Dec. 8.

“[After Beaver Creek], it was a bit of a struggle to deal with the extra attention from that and ground again,” said Ford, who rallied from 10th place after the first run. “A bit of a struggle to find that consistency again. I’m thankful for that struggle because it’s been a big learning experience I haven’t had before.”

Ford, 30, ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades in his 86th career World Cup start in Beaver Creek.

He became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ted Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford ranks fifth in the giant slalom season standings, 43 points behind third place with three scheduled races left.

The men’s World Cup continues with a slalom in Naeba on Saturday night (11 ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold).

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

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