American Tommy Ford grabs Alpine skiing World Cup runner-up

Tommy Ford
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SANTA CATERINA VULFURVA, Italy — Marco Odermatt fulfilled his potential on Monday by becoming first Swiss skier to win a men’s World Cup giant slalom in nearly 10 years.

American Tommy Ford took second for his third World Cup podium.

Ever since winning GS world titles as a junior in 2016 and 2018, Odermatt was the ski-mad nation’s main hope to end its drought in the discipline. After five podium finishes, including in both previous races this season, Odermatt finally delivered in the Italian Alps.

Holding onto a first-run lead, he beat Ford by 0.73 seconds.

“It’s really emotional for me today. I never had this before,” Odermatt said, pointing at tears in eyes. “It was big pressure today: First time red bib, first time leading after first run. Now I am really proud.”

Filip Zubcic, who won Saturday’s race in dense snowfall, was 1.25 seconds off the lead and outside the top 20 after the opening run but the Croatian skier posted the fastest time in the second run to place third, 0.75 behind.

Odermatt became the first GS winner from Switzerland since Carlo Janka, who was the reigning overall champion when he won in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in March 2011.

“Such statistics leave me pretty cold, they don’t give me additional pressure,” Odermatt said. “I only put myself under pressure.”

Since Janka’s triumph, the Swiss team went without a podium result in the discipline for seven seasons, before Odermatt, Loic Meillard, Gino Caviezel and Thomas Tumler all scored top-three results since the 2018-19 season.

“We stayed cool, went step-by-step and kept working hard. We didn’t turn everything upside-down,” Odermatt said about the rebuilding of the Swiss GS team in recent years.

Odermatt’s second career win came one year and a day after he triumphed in a super-G in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Odermatt extended his lead in the discipline standings and joined Alexis Pinturault at the top of the overall standings.

Pinturault was 0.82 behind in fifth, just behind Meillard in fourth.

Ford was 0.43 off the lead in fourth after the opening run before he edged then-leader Zubcic by two-hundredths and took the lead in the race with only Odermatt to race.

Odermatt had a ferocious start as he extended his advantage over the American to just over a second. While he lost half of the lead at the last check point, the Swiss’ victory never was in danger.

The result marked the 31-year-old Ford’s best World Cup finish aside from his maiden win in Beaver Creek last year. Ford, the only U.S. man to make a World Cup podium since the PyeongChang Olympics, had minimal preseason training. He was off snow from June to October after a mountain bike crash resulted in a separated shoulder.

“I felt quite at home because the falling snow is just like home and Mt. Bachelor,” the Oregonian Ford said. “Just happy to be skiing here, period.”

The race was rescheduled from Sunday, when heavy snow in the Italian Alps made the competition impossible. Conditions improved overnight, with low temperatures hardening the surface of the course.

The event was moved from Val d’Isere because of lack of snow, though the French resort is set to host a downhill and super-G next weekend, the first speed races of the season.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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Mo Farah likely to retire this year

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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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