Alpine skiing World Cup season opener cancelled due to bad weather

The first women's alpine skiing World Cup stop of the season was canceled due to unpredictable weather
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Soelden, Austria — Rain and snowfall wiped out the first women’s race of the Alpine skiing World Cup season Saturday and made the men’s event for the next day doubtful.

Wet snow on the Austrian glacier affected the visibility on the softened course and made a safe race impossible.

Organizers initially delayed the planned start time of 10 a.m. by one hour but decided to call off the race soon after as conditions didn’t improve.

“This was the worst-case scenario — but this happened exactly,” FIS women’s race director Peter Gerdol said. “We had a couple of hours of rain tonight and then this wet snow around five or six o’clock this morning, so the surface was actually too soft to guarantee a safe race.”

The giant slalom will likely be rescheduled at another venue, to be confirmed “in a few days,” according to Gerdol.

Weather conditions were expected to improve in the afternoon, allowing organizers to start preparing the course for the men’s race on Sunday.

Chief of race Rainer Gstrein said they might need to use water and salt to make the weakened course suitable again for a World Cup race.

“It’s going to be a major effort,” Gstrein told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

It is the first time since 2006 that the women’s race of the traditional season-opening weekend in Austria was canceled. The men’s race was most recently called off in 2017 and 2018.

“Well, we’re trying. We’re all ready to go, everything’s been packed up,” Mikaela Shiffrin said in a video posted on her Twitter account.

“But the race has been canceled because, unfortunately, it’s really, really, really wet outside. But air smells fresh and that’s nice but we won’t be racing today.”

Shiffrin won the traditional season opener on the Rettenbach glacier last year and the American went on to win the overall World Cup title for a fourth time.

In a similar scenario, Marco Odermatt triumphed in the men’s race and the Swiss skier became overall champion for the first time last season.

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Rosie MacLennan, Olympic trampoline legend, retires

Rosie MacLennan
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Canadian Rosie MacLennan, the lone person to win two Olympic trampoline gold medals, announced her retirement at age 34.

“After 10 World Championships and 4 Olympic Games, it is time for me to hang up my shiny spandex,” she posted on social media. “Trampoline has been such an integral part of my life and sport will continue to be, even if my role in sport is changing. My experience as an athlete has exceeded even my wildest childhood dreams.”

MacLennan won Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 in an event that debuted at the 2000 Sydney Games. She was fourth at her last Olympics in Tokyo. MacLennan, Canada’s flag bearer at the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony, also earned world titles in 2013 and 2018 among seven world medals overall.

MacLennan came back from two concussions in 2015 — over-rotating a jump in training and later when she was accidentally hit on the head by a car trunk — to win her second Olympic title. She came back from an April 2019 broken ankle to reach her fourth Olympics.

MacLennan, who qualified for her first world age group competition at age 11, spent more than 26 years in the sport.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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Jessie Diggins ties U.S. record for World Cup cross-country skiing wins

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Jessie Diggins tied Kikkan Randall‘s U.S. record with her 13th career individual cross-country skiing World Cup victory, taking a 10km freestyle in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday.

Diggins, the most decorated U.S. Olympic cross-country skier with a medal of every color, prevailed by 3.8 seconds over German Katharina Hennig in the interval start event. Diggins trailed Hennig by one second at the 8.2-kilometer split, then made up 4.8 seconds over the final four minutes of the course.

“My fitness and brain were in a really good place,” Diggins said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “When I asked my body to go deep into the pain cave, it responded.”

Diggins tied the record of Randall, who in 2007 became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross-country skiing race and ended her career by teaming with Diggins to win the first U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing title at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. (Another skier, Alison Owen-Spencer, won a race in 1978 that U.S. Ski and Snowboard counts as a World Cup, but the International Ski Federation does not.)

Diggins opened this World Cup season last weekend in Ruka, Finland, with a best finish of 10th among three races. She trended up each day, finishing that stop with the second-fastest time in last Sunday’s individual pursuit (where she started 19th).

Diggins, 31, has spread out her goals this season. One of the biggest is helping the U.S. win a relay medal for the first time at the world championships in three months. Diggins has been a part of relays that finished fourth at four different worlds.

She also eyes the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport that goes to the best all-around skier for the season. In 2020-21, Diggins became the second American — and first American woman — to win the overall in a season where Norway’s top skiers, including superstar Therese Johaug, skipped early season races and chances to gain points for the overall title.

Johaug retired after winning three individual golds at last February’s Olympics. Diggins is the top returning skier given the absence of reigning overall champ Natalya Nepryayeva, who cannot compete due to the ban on Russian athletes for the war in Ukraine.

The World Cup season continues with a freestyle sprint on Saturday and a classic 20km mass start on Sunday in Lillehammer.

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