Ramon Zenhaeusern goes from 8th to win season’s first slalom

Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup - Men's Slalom
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ALTA BADIA, Italy — Ramon Zenhaeusern won the first men’s World Cup slalom of the season on Monday, improving from eighth position after the opening run.

The Swiss skier beat two Austrians — Manuel Feller and Marco Schwarz — for his fourth career win, but first since March 2019.

First-run leader Alex Vinatzer dropped to fourth in the Italian’s first World Cup race after having surgery for appendicitis less than four weeks ago.

Zenhaeusern was 0.52 seconds off the lead after the first run and posting the 10th fastest time in the final run was enough for the win, 0.08 ahead of Feller and 0.12 ahead of Schwarz.

“It was so tight after the first run, I had to push full on,” Zenhaeusern said.

“I was really, really nervous, because I hadn’t raced since nearly 11 months. And now this, it’s really good. It shows you that all the work in these 11 months pays off.”

Daniel Yule and Michael Matt, who were second and third after the opening run, dropped to seventh and 15th, respectively, though they remained within a second of Zenhaeusern’s winning time.

Alexis Pinturault was 0.77 behind in 11th and the Frenchman strengthened his top position in the overall standings, as his main rival, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, doesn’t compete in slalom.

Slalom World Cup champion Henrik Kristoffersen finished sixth.

Slowed by tough snow conditions on the Gran Risa course, many favorites seemed surprised by their finishing times, with some racers shrugging their shoulders or spreading their arms in disbelief.

However, Feller improved from 13th by clocking the second-fastest time in the final run.

The Austrian struggled with persistent back problems last season, and he screamed “He is here again!” as soon as he crossed the finish.

“This is the most emotional moment of my career. Last season was incredibly exhausting and incredibly hurtful,” he said, adding the result gave him “satisfaction.”

“I thought my run might be good enough for fifth place and I would have been super happy with that,” said Feller, who has five career podium results but is yet to win a race.

Schwarz completed the strong showing of the Austrian team, trailing Feller by four hundredths in third.

Austria is still chasing a first win in a slalom or GS since record eight-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher retired in 2019.

Vinatzer lost his first-run lead as he posted the 23rd time in the final run, missing the podium by seven hundredths in fourth.

The Italian had surgery in November and missed a parallel World Cup event in Austria.

He attempted a comeback to racing in a slalom on the lower-ranked European Cup circuit last week but failed to finish his opening run of the event in Val di Passa, before skipping a second race at the same resort the following day.

But Vinatzer looked back to his best upon his return to the World Cup on Monday.

Competing on the World Cup since 2017, Vinatzer has recorded three top-10 results, with a third-place finish in Zagreb, Croatia in January his personal best.

The men’s slalom season is starting late following changes to the usual calendar amid anti-coronavirus measures.

A night slalom is scheduled in Madonna di Campiglio on Tuesday. A TV and live stream schedule is here.

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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