The Sports Examiner

HIGHLIGHTS: Superb marathons by Hehir (2:08:59) & Hall (2:20:32); first medals for U.S. skiers Johnson & Cochran-Siegle; U.S.’s Geraghty-Moats makes history!

Sensational 2:20:32 win for American Sara Hall in Sunday's The Marathon Project 2020 (Photo: The Marathon Project 2020)

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Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Alpine Skiing ● Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde swept the Super-G and Downhill at the 52nd Saslong Classic races in Val Gardena, Italy, with a surprise silver for American Ryan Cochran-Siegle on Saturday.

Kilde won his fifth and sixth World Cup races, just edging Swiss Mauro Caviezel by 0.12 in Friday’s Super-G with Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud third (+0.21). Cochran-Siegle was eighth (+0.87).

On Saturday, Kilde took the Downhill in 2:01.45, but Cochran-Siegle, 28, won his first World Cup medal in second – his prior best was a fifth – just 0.22 behind. Swiss Beat Feuz was third (+0.54). American Bryce Bennett tied for fourth (+0.62) and Jared Goldberg was sixth (+0.72), an outstanding showing for the U.S.

Said Cochran-Siegle: “Coming here, I didn’t think this would be a hill I should worry too much about. That way it made it easy. This isn’t a hill I should do well – it’s such a gliding hill. I just focused on the skiing and it allowed me to perform well.”

The heavy racing schedule continued on Sunday with a Giant Slalom at Alta Badia (ITA), with French star Alexis Pinturault taking the win in 2:27.19, just ahead of Atle Lie McGrath (NOR: +0.07) and Swiss Justin Murisier (+0.24). American Tommy Ford was fifth, just 0.17 from a medal. The Slalom will be held on Monday.

The women’s tour was in Val d’Isere (FRA) for speed races, with veteran stars Corinne Suter (SUI) and Sofia Goggia (ITA) taking the two Downhill titles on Friday and Saturday. Suter won on Friday, just 0.11 ahead of Goggia and 0.20 up on American Breezy Johnson, 24, who took her first World Cup medal in third.

Goggia and Suter traded places for Saturday’s Downhill, with the 2018 Olympic gold medalist finishing 0.24 seconds ahead of Suter, with Johnson third again (+0.27)! Before this past weekend, Johnson’s best finish had been a fourth and two fifths over five years on tour.

Suter was looking for another medal in Sunday’s Super-G and was second again, this time to Czech star (and Olympic gold medalist) Ester Ledecka, who won by just 0.03! Italy’s Federica Brignone was third (+0.35), with American Keely Cashman finishing 10th.

These are encouraging performances for the U.S. squad, which is slowly developing new stars to keep Mikaela Shiffrin from feeling too lonely on the circuit.

Athletics ● The multi-event athletes got a chance to compete at the Meeting de la Reunion on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, specifically in St. Paul (a “department of France”) over the weekend and it was a showcase for world record holder Kevin Mayer.

The French star won easily, scoring 8,552 points, by far the best score in the world for 2020. He won the 100 m and shot put on the first day, then took the 100 m hurdles, discus and javelin in the final day to easily outdistance Estonians Taavi Tsernjavski (8,030) and Risto Lillemets (7,993).

The women’s heptathlon was won by Colombia’s Evelis Jazmin Aguilar at 6,055, ahead of Mari Klaup (EST: 6,014) and Sarah Lagger (AUT: 6,010).

The Marathon Project 2020 created an elites-only race on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Chandler, Arizona on Sunday, over a 4.3-mile, flat loop course with sensational results for Martin Hehir and Sara Hall.

Hehir, the 28-year-old former Syracuse All-American, took the race with a massive lifetime best of 2:08:59, well ahead of Noah Droddy (2:09:09), Colin Bennie (2:09:38) and Scott Fauble (2:09:42). Hehir moves to no. 6 on the all-time U.S. list, with Droddy at no. 8.

A group of 16 crossed the halfway mark together in 1:04:27 and 13 were still running together with Hehir in the lead at 30 km. The lead pack shrunk to nine by 35 km, but then Hehir took over and carved out a 10-second lead over Droddy by 40 km and steamed home with a 2 1/2-minute improvement on his 2:11:29 sixth-place finish at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. In all, seven runners broke 2:10, with huge PRs for Droddy (old PR 2:11:42), Bennie (2:12:14), Ian Butler (2:09:45 vs. 2:16:26) in fifth, Scott Smith (2:09:46 in sixth vs. 2:11:14) and Mick Iacofano (2:09:55 in seventh vs. 2:13:48).

The women’s race was a showcase for Sara Hall, who ran the second-fastest marathon ever by an American woman, winning in 2:20:32, ranking 15th on the 2020 world list.

Hall and Kellyn Taylor had broken away from the field by the half, with Hall extending her lead continuously after that and winning by 2:24 over Keira D’Amato, who passed Taylor after the 35 km mark. The top six all broke 2:27, with D’Amato finishing in 2:22:56 (no. 8 all-time U.S.), then Taylor in 2:25:22, Emma Bates in 2:25:40, Nastasha Wodak (CAN) in a lifetime best 2:26:19 and Andrea Ramirez Limon (MEX) in a lifetime best of 2:26:34 (no. 3 all-time Mexico).

Hall’s brilliant run finishes a great year in which she ran 2:22:01 for second at London and now 2:20:32, but she did not finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and will not race in Tokyo.

Prize money for each division was $5,000-2,000-1,000.

Biathlon ● Big fun for Norway in the second week of competition in Hochfilzen (AUT), winning five of the six events and claiming 12 of the 18 medals on offer.

In the men’s events, Norwegians Sturla Holm Laegrid, Johannes Dale and overall leader Johannes Thingnes Boe swept the 10 km Sprint, then Laegrid and Boe went 1-3 in the 12.5 km Pursuit (with France’s Emilien Jacquelin second), and then Tarjei Boe took the bronze in the 15 km Mass Start. German Arnd Peiffer and Martin Ponsiluoma (SWE) went 1-2 in the Pursuit.

The women’s races were more of the same. The 7.5 km Sprint was a Norwegian sweep with Tiril Eckhoff winning her second World Cup race of the season, followed by Ingrid Tandrevold and overall leader Marte Olsbu Roeiseland. Eckhoff also won the 10 km Pursuit, followed by the Swedish sisters Hanna and Elvira Oberg (with Tandrevold fourth). Finally, Roeiseland and Eckhoff went 1-2 in the 12.5 km Mass Start, with Italy’s Dorothea Weirer claiming the bronze medal.

These were the final races of 2020; the tour starts up again in January.

Bobsled & Skeleton ● Order was restored at the IBSF World Cup races in its second week of racing at Innsbruck (AUT), with German superstar (and Olympic gold medalist) Francesco Friedrich winning both men’s races.

In fact, the two men’s Two-Man races had almost the exact same medal winners! Friedrich and Alexander Schuller won both, with Latvia’s Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis second in both. Germans Johannes Lochner and Christian Rasp were third in both, but tied in the second race by teammates Hans Peter Hannighofer and Marcel Kornhardt.

That’s seven wins in eight races for Friedrich, who is 0.30 seconds short of a perfect season, losing to Lochner in the first Innsbruck race last week.

Germany continued its winning streak in the Two-Women races, winning for the fourth time in a row, but with the third different team as part of a third straight sweep of the medals. This time it was Stephanie Schneider, with Leonie Fiebig, who took the victory, followed by two-time seasonal winner Laura Nolte and Deborah Levi just 0.18 back, and then Kim Kalicki and Ann-Christin Strack in third.

In Skeleton, Latvia’s Martins Dukurs won again to extend his perfect season to four in a row, with Matt Weston (GBR) getting up for second and Christopher Grotheer third. Austrian Janine Flock won her third race (out of four) this season, with Dutch slider Kimberley Bos claiming her third silver medal in four races. German star Jacquelline Loelling was third.

Everyone gets to go home for the holidays, with racing resuming in January.

Freestyle Skiing ● In the mid-week Ski Cross races in Arosa (SUI), Sweden won three of four, with David Mobarg and Viktor Andersson taking the men’s races and Alexandra Edebo winning the first of two women’s races.

Swiss skiers won three medals in the two men’s races, with Alex Fiva and Joos Berry 2-3 in the first race and Ryan Regez taking silver in the second. Swiss star Fanny Smith was second in the first race and won the second women’s race, with teammate Talina Gantenbein third.

While the weekend Ski Cross races in Val Thorens (FRA) had to deal with difficult wind conditions, it was possible to go on Sunday with France’s Jonathan Midol and Fanny Smith coming away winners.

Midol won the final from Reece Howden (CAN) and Florian Wilmsmann (GER), with Jean Frederic Chapuis in fourth. Smith won her second race and third medal in a week, edging Jade Grillet Aubert (FRA) and Marielle Thompson (CAN) in the final.

The second scheduled race has been moved to Monday, with hopes for fair weather. The Freestyle tour will then pause until mid-January.

Luge ● In Winterberg (GER), German star Felix Loch won his fifth straight race in the men’s Singles to extend his perfect season, ahead of Nico Gleirscher (AUT) and Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller, but then saw his streak end with a fifth-place finish in the Sprint World Cup race. German Max Langenhan took the Sprint win, edging Kevin Fischnaller (ITA), who beat out his cousin Dominik for the silver.

Germans also won both of the men’s Doubles races, with Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt taking the first race over teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken by 40/1000ths, with Andris and Juris Sics (LAT) third. But Eggert and Benecken took the Sprint, with Wendl and Arlt third and Austria’s Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller winning their firth medal in six races this season in second.

German Julia Taubitz confirmed her status as the top women’s slider with her third and fourth wins – Standard and Sprint – in six races this season, with the amazing Natalie Geisenberger coming in second in both events. She’s been second in all six races this season! Eliza Tiruma (LAT) was third in the Standard race, with Dajana Eitberger third in the Sprint.

Nordic Skiing ● History for the U.S. as Tera Geraghty-Moats won the first-ever women’s Nordic Combined World Cup race!

In Cross Country, the final World Cup races for 2020 were in Dresden (GER), with another U.S. medal performance in the women’s Sprint.

The men’s Sprint was taken by 2017 World Champion Federico Pellegrino, who zipped through the 1,288 m course in 2:21.96, well clear of Andrew Young (GBR: +0.53) and Gleb Retivykh (RUS: +0.91). Two Americans made the final, finishing fifth (Simi Hamilton) and sixth (Kevin Bolger).

The women’s Sprint was a three-way fight with Swiss Nadine Faehndrich getting to the line first, ahead of American Sophie Caldwell Hamilton (+0.32) and Anamarija Lampic (SLO: +0.35). It’s the 10th career World Cup medal (2-5-3) for Caldwell Hamilton and 2018 Olympic gold medalist Jessica Diggins was fourth, 2.60 seconds behind the winner.

The U.S., with Caldwell Hamilton and Diggins, finished fourth in the Team Sprint final, behind Switzerland, Russia and Slovenia. Russia won the men’s Team Sprint.

History was in the making in the Nordic Combined events in Dresden, with the first-ever World Cup competition taking place on Friday. Geraghty-Moats stood only sixth after the 98 m jumping round, but came from 39 seconds behind at the start of the 5 km cross-country race, but overtook everyone to finish 1.5 seconds ahead of Norway’s Gyda Westvold Hansen and 13 seconds ahead of Anju Nakamura from Japan.

This is something that I have dreamed about since I was about 10 years old,” said the winner. “Coming into this competition I was really uncertain of myself because I had not put a bib on in 10 months, and I had 10% of my ski jumping training that I had hoped to have. But all day long I just kept telling myself that I could do it one step at a time.”

Geraghty-Moats had been a ski jumper prior, with a best finish of ninth in a World Cup event, back in February 2015. She’s now in the history books as the first-ever winner of a women’s Nordic Combined World Cup.

The men’s competitions included 98 m hill jumps and 10 km races on Saturday and Sunday. German Vinzenz Geiger scored a tight win over Norwegian superstar Jarl Magnus Riiber – by 0.5 seconds – on Saturday with Lukas Greiderer (AUT) third. Then Geiger won again on Sunday over Riiber by just 0.2 seconds (!) for his fifth career World Cup win. Riiber had won the three races this season prior to Dresden. German star Fabian Reissle was third on Sunday (+5.0).

In Ski Jumping, the dream season continued for Norway’s Halvor Egner Granerud, who won both competitions in Engelberg (SUI), off the 140 m hill. He took Saturday’s event in a close 311.4-309.2 contest with Polish star Kamil Stoch, with Anze Lanisek (SLO) third (-8.7). On Sunday, Granerud dispatched his season-long rival, Markus Eisenbichler (GER) by 305.4-303.7, with another Pole, Piotr Zyla third (-9.2).

The women’s jumpers were in Ramsau (AUT) on Friday, jumping off the 98 m hill there, with 19-year-old Marita Kramer (AUT) claiming her second World Cup win, ahead of Nika Kriznar (SLO) and Japan’s Sara Takanashi.

Wrestling ● The United World Wrestling substitute for the World Championships, the Individual World Cup, wrapped up in Belgrade (SRB) with the men’s and women’s Freestyle divisions.

Russia dominated the event, winning eight men’s Freestyle golds and two women’s Freestyle titles (and seven total medals), taking the team titles in both events.

Zavur Uguev (57 kg), Abasgadzhi Magomedov (61 kg), Razambek Zhamalov (74 kg), Akhmed Usmanov (79 kg), Dauren Kurugliev (86 kg), Alikhan Zhabrailov (92 kg), Abdulrashid Sadulaev (97 kg) and Shamil Sharipov (125 kg) all won men’s Freestyle titles. Russian women’s winners included Ekaterina Poleshchuk (50 kg) and Svetlana Lipatova (59 kg) and the Russians had five other medalists. The U.S. and Japan did not compete in this event; Iran sent only a small team.

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