AP

Men’s Alpine skiing World Cup opener canceled due to weather

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — The season-opening men’s World Cup giant slalom that was canceled due to bad weather at the Rettenbach glacier on Sunday will be rescheduled for another resort in Europe.

The men’s race director of governing body FIS, Markus Waldner, said the race will be held before the Christmas break, and that organizers were expected to announce the new date and venue on Monday.

Excessive snowfall and strong winds forced the cancellation of Sunday’s race.

Organizers initially delayed the start of the giant slalom by an hour, but called off the event soon after as no improvement of the weather was forecast.

“It is no longer possible to clean the course from the 50 cm of overnight snowfall and ensure a safe race,” FIS said, adding that high winds were blowing fresh snow onto the course as well.

It’s the second straight year that the traditional season-opener on the Austrian glacier had to be cancelled, after gusts made the race impossible in 2017.

Under old FIS regulations, the opening race of a season could not be moved or rescheduled, but that rule has changed this season.

The first race of the women’s World Cup on the same course Saturday took place in tough conditions with low clouds and snowfall.

World champion Tessa Worley of France won the race, ahead of Italy’s Federica Brignone and Olympic GS champion Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States.

The next World Cup events are slaloms in Levi, Finland, with the women racing on Nov. 17 and the men the following day.

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Mikaela Shiffrin makes podium in World Cup season opener

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Mikaela Shiffrin and Tessa Worley vacationed together in Martinique in the offseason. They shared the podium — Worley first, Shiffrin third — in far less inviting weather in the first race of the World Cup season, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Saturday.

Shiffrin, the Olympic GS champion, finished .94 behind the Frenchwoman and .59 behind Italian runner-up Federica Brignone. She was disappointed with her first run on a course set by her coach, which put her in fourth place and six tenths back going into the afternoon finale.

“I wasn’t really fighting hard enough,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “For sure [my second run] was better. It was not like pretty skiing but I was fighting harder. I had fun out there but I also had some turns that were not fun at all.”

The start was moved down before the first run due to poor visibility, compounded by windy snowfall and bumpy terrain on the Rettenbach glacier.

“It was a fight,” Worley said.

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Shiffrin made the podium in Soelden for the fourth time in five years. She’s favored this season to join Lindsey Vonn as the only women to win three straight World Cup overall titles in the last 25 years.

Shiffrin gained points Saturday on her top rivals from recent seasons. Swiss Wendy Holdener, last season’s overall runner-up, was seventh. Another Swiss, Lara Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champ, was 14th.

“I was able to start the season with a podium and it’s a great thing,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “It’s not enough, but it’s OK for now and it’s a good place to start.”

Worley, who relegated Shiffrin to GS silver at the 2017 Worlds, became the first Frenchwoman to win in Soelden. It’s her 13th World Cup win, all in giant slalom. She was a disappointing seventh in the PyeongChang Olympic GS.

The World Cup season continues with the opening men’s giant slalom in Soelden on Sunday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold). Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety has won four times on the Rettenbach glacier.

Shiffrin is expected to headline the next women’s World Cup race, a slalom in Levi, Finland in three weeks. Vonn plans her season debut in her farewell year for the first speed events at Lake Louise, Alberta, in five weeks.

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Ted Ligety questions cancellation of World Cup race

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Can’t blame Ted Ligety for eagerly wanting to race the Alpine skiing season opener after overcoming two years’ worth of injuries to return to the World Cup circuit.

Ligety did not agree with canceling the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, more than three hours before the scheduled start partially, based on a foreboding forecast. He aired frustration in a series of tweets.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) called off the race before 7 a.m. local time, citing 75 mph wind gusts and a forecast for worsening conditions later in the day. The first run was scheduled for 10 a.m. FIS later said that by midday the entire area had to be evacuated due to a storm.

“Seems odd to have a race cancelled at 645am in Austria when their biggest star is temporarily out,” Ligety tweeted at the FIS Alpine account early in the morning and in a separate tweet to his 88,000 followers.

Austria’s biggest star is six-time reigning World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher, who is sidelined indefinitely due to a broken left ankle suffered Aug. 17.

Before Ligety’s series of injuries, he battled Hirscher for giant slalom titles. The last two seasons, Hirscher has been largely unrivaled in the discipline.

Soelden, the traditional season opener, is never rescheduled, so the cancellation means Hirscher could return before missing any giant slaloms. The next GS is Dec. 3.

The World Cup giant slalom season title — which Ligety has won five times and Hirscher four — goes to the man who accumulates the most points from the nine scheduled World Cup races through March. With the Soelden cancellation, there will be eight.

Ligety just missed a big chance to get a leg up on Hirscher.

“It may be horrible weather up there, but when the president of the OSV [Austrian ski federation] is telling people it will be cancelled days in advance it smells fishy,” Ligety’s Twitter account continued. “I wanted the opportunity to try to race. + they don’t make this race up. Already less GS’s then SL&DH [slaloms and downhills scheduled this season]. A forecast is only a forecast not 100.”

Hirscher laughed at Ligety’s comment and agreed with the decision to cancel the race, according to Austrian media.

“A race wouldn’t have been possible today,” the Austrian federation posted on Facebook about an hour after Ligety’s initial tweet.

Austrian ski officials also reportedly dismissed Ligety’s tweets.

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