Matterhorn Alpine skiing World Cup downhills canceled

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Four World Cup downhill races over the next two weeks that start in Switzerland and finish in Italy were called off due to a lack of snow on the final 300 meters of the course following an unseasonably warm fall and an unfavorable weather forecast.

Two men’s downhills this weekend and two women’s downhills Nov. 5-6 were canceled on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively.

Added to the calendar this season, the Zermatt-Cervinia downhill against the spectacular backdrop of the Matterhorn was set to become the first cross-border event in Alpine skiing’s World Cup history.

The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) said the men’s races had to be canceled “due to the lack of snow and the safety situation on last section of the race track” and will not be replaced. The women’s races will also not be replaced.

FIS Secretary General Michel Vion said in a statement on the federation’s website on Saturday that the cross-border downhill was “a new and unique project that we continue to believe in.”

Earlier Saturday, the season-opening giant slalom of the women’s World Cup also had to be called off because of unfavorable weather conditions on the glacier in Austria.

The 4-kilometer Gran Becca course starts in Zermatt at an altitude of 3,700 meters and finishes in Laghi Cime Bianche above Cervinia at 2,835 meters.

While parts of the course are covered by over a meter of snow, mild temperatures in recent weeks hindered snowmaking for the lower section.

FIS usually carries out its snow control two weeks before a World Cup event but last week postponed its decision on the races to give organizers more time.

Vion said local organizers “achieved great things in the past few days. It was certainly not their fault that the men’s races could not take place.”

The new downhill is a signature event for FIS President Johan Eliasch, who labeled it “iconic.”

“I have been there, inspected the race course, and it is truly phenomenal,” Eliasch said the day before the event was canceled.

The introduction of the race was meant to give the speed racing season an early start, closing the gap between the traditional season-opening giant slalom in Austria in the third week of October and the downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek in late November and early December.

However, FIS men’s race director Markus Waldner said after Saturday’s cancellation that from next season the Zermatt-Cervina downhills might be moved to a later slot in the calendar.

“For the future, we absolutely need to review the dates because we need to have more guarantee,” Waldner said. “We have to observe the nature. We have this climate change, we had a very extremely warm summer, extremely warm autumn, also. These are signals and we need to respect this.”

Earlier, some racers voiced concerns over the project, which brings the speed season forward by a month with a demanding, high-altitude race.

“It’s not really a normal downhill, it’s a long one. And it’s also on 4,000 meters in the first downhill race of the year,” Norwegian speed specialist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde told The Associated Press in a recent video call.

“So, it’s not really an easy start, so that’s what I’m most concerned about,” Kilde added. “It’s really annoying to get injured in the first race.”

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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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Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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