HIGHLIGHTS: U.S.’s Brennan sweeps Cross Country titles in Davos (!), surprise Alpine win for Slovenia’s Cater; Loch continues undefeated luge season

Sensational double win for American Rosie Brennan (12) in the FIS Cross Country World Cup in Davos! (Photo: U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

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Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Alpine Skiing ● The holidays are a good time for surprises and the skiing world got some on Sunday in the first men’s Downhill of the World Cup season at Val d’Isere (FRA), as three little-known skiers took home the medals.

Slovenia’s Martin Cater, 27, who had never finished higher than fifth in a World Cup race, won the event in 2:04.67, just 0.22 ahead of Otmar Striedinger (AUT; his first World Cup medal in 20 months) and 0.27 ahead of Swiss Urs Kryenbuehl, who won his second career World Cup medal.

Cater started 20th in the field of 61, but skied perfectly and no one could catch him!

The medalists in Saturday’s Super-G were only a little more familiar, with Swiss Mauro Caviezel winning in 1:01.34 for his 11th World Cup medal, but first win of his career at age 32. He was followed by Adrian Smiseth Sejerstad (NOR: +0.10) – his first-ever World Cup medal – and Christian Waldner (AUT: +0.54), also winning his first World Cup medal.

American Travis Ganong, 32, was fourth, his best finish since his January, 2017 World Cup Downhill win in Garmisch (GER).

The women were in Courchevel (FRA) for two Giant Slalom races. The Saturday race was another triumph for Italy’s Marta Bassino, who won the season-opening Giant Slalom in Soelden (AUT) back in October. She claimed her third career win ahead of Sara Hector (SWE) and overall leader Petra Vlhova (SLO). American Mikaela Shiffrin, back on the slopes after injury, finished fourth, more than a second behind Vlhova.

Sunday’s race was canceled for bad weather and is hoped to be held on Monday.

Biathlon ● The first of two weeks of racing in Hochfilzen (AUT) saw strong racing for the French men, winning four of the six individual medals.

Norway’s Johannes Dale took the men’s 10 km Sprint title on Friday, winning by 17.1 seconds over Quentin Fillon Mailett and 29.0 over Fabien Claude. But Fillon Mailett took the 12.5 km Pursuit on Saturday, 25.5 seconds clear of teammate Emilien Jacquelin with Norway’s Dale in third. Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe was fourth in both races and continued to hold the seasonal lead.

PyeongChang relay gold medalist Dzinara Alimbekava (BLR) was the winner of the women’s 7.5 km Sprint, beating favored Tiril Eckhoff (NOR: +8.5) and Franziska Preuss (GER) thanks to perfect shooting, as the two other medalists suffered one penalty each.

Norway’s Marte Olsbu Roeiseland won the Women’s 10 km Pursuit, with Alimbekava second (+13.9) and France’s Julia Simon third. The win was enough to give Roeiseland the overall seasonal lead.

● Bobsled & Skeleton ● The racing moved to Innsbruck (AUT) for the first of two weeks, with German superstar Francesco Friedrich’s perfect season ended by 0.30 seconds.

In the first of two two-man events, 2018 double Olympic gold medalist Friedrich and Thorsten Margis were only third best after the first run and even with a better second try, finished 0.30 seconds behind teammates Johannes Lochner and Eric Franke, 1:42.93-1:43.23. Latvia’s Oskar Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis finished third.

Friedrich had driven to four wins in a row and with Margis again, got back to the top of the podium in the second set of races, posting the fastest time in both trials to combine for a 1:43.29-1:43.45 margin over Lochner and Miknis.

The two-women race saw the second straight win for previously-unheralded German driver Laura Nolte, who combined with Deborah Levi this time to win both trials over Kim Kalicki and Ann-Christin Strack, 1:47.00-1:47.30. Reigning Olympic gold medalist Mariama Jamanka (with Leonie Fiebig) placed third (1:47.45), but maintained the overall seasonal lead.

The women’s Monobob event – it’s on the program for Beijing 2022 – was won by Australia’s Breeana Walker, 1:51.08-1:51.52 over Nolte, with Austrian Katrin Beierl third for the second consecutive race.

In Skeleton, six-time World Champion Martins Dukurs (LAT) stayed undefeated this season – sort of – by tying for first with Russian star Alexander Tretiakov at 1:45.42. Dukurs led the competition after the first run with Tretiakov fourth, but when the Russian won the second section and Dukurs was third, the combined times showed a tie. Nikita Tregubov (RUS) was third.

Former World Cup winner Elena Nikitina (RUS) won the women’s Skeleton by 53.74-54.02 over emerging Dutch star Kimberley Bos, who won a medal in her third straight meet this season. Austria’s Janine Flock – who won the first two races this season – was third, tied with Germany’s Tina Hermann (54.19).

Freestyle Skiing ● A full program of Moguls and Dual Moguls was on at Idre Fjall in Sweden, with the unstoppable Perrine Laffont in championship form.

Veteran Benjamin Cavet (FRA) was just slightly better than Brodie Summers (AUS) and American Nick Page in Saturday’s Moguls final by 83.71-81.84-81.28. French superstar Laffont – the reigning Olympic gold medalist – won her eighth straight World Cup Moguls event, outscoring Anri Kawamura (JPN), 82.53-80.61, with American Hannah Soar third (78.63).

Laffont came back on Sunday with another win, this time in Dual Moguls, for her 20th career World Cup victory. She dispatched U.S. veteran Jaelin Kauf in the final, while Kawamura defeated American Tess Johnson for the bronze medal.

The men’s Dual Moguls final pitted Australian Matt Graham and Swede Ludvig Fjallstrom, but the race was called off due to low visibility and they were both declared victors. Same for the third-placers, Jordan Kober (CAN) and Bradley Wilson of the U.S.

Golf ● The women’s U.S. Open was suspended on Sunday due to bad weather and will finish on Monday.

Through three rounds at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, Japan’s Hinako Shibuno (-4) led over American Amy Olson (-3), with Ji Yeong Kim (KOR) and Moriya Jutanugarn (THA) tied at -1. Five others at even par through 54 holes.

Luge ● The FIL World Cup landed in Oberhof (GER) for the weekend, with 13-time World Champion Felix Loch continuing his perfect season with a fourth straight win.

He had to come from behind this time, as Johannes Lochner (GER) had the fastest first run, with Loch second (-0.39). But Loch won the second run cleanly – 43.290-43.252 – over Lochner to win by 1:26.745-1:26.841. Austria’s Jonas Mueller was third.

Three-time Doubles World Champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won for the first time season, displacing seasonal leaders Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller (AUT), 1:22.881 to 1:23.036. Austria also claimed the bronze medal with Yannick Mueller and Armin Frauscher.

The women’s races belonged to Germany’s Datjana Eitberger, who won her third medal of the season, but got her first win by 1:23.338-1:23.410 over Olympic champ Natalie Geisenberger. It’s the fourth straight race this season that Geisenberger has placed second! Latvia’s Kendija Aparjode got her first medal of the season in third.

Nordic Skiing ● The Davos Nordic Festival was on this weekend in Switzerland, with American Rosie Brennan emerging as the star of the Cross Country racing after two wins in two days!

She took the women’s 1.5 km Freestyle Sprint on Saturday in 2:37.36, ahead of Anamarija Lampic (SLO: +0.28) and Russian Natalia Nepryaeva (+0.49); American Sophie Caldwell was fifth.

On Sunday, she won the Freestyle 10 km race in 24:49.8, some 34.0 seconds ahead of Yulia Stupak (RUS), with fellow American Hailey Swirbul, 22, taking the bronze (+40.5) for her first World Cup medal. Swirbul’s best prior finish in a World Cup individual race was 18th!

These were the third and fourth career medals for Brennan, 32, and her first-ever individual-event World Cup medals and wins. She’s now the overall leader in the Cross Country World Cup, albeit after only five races. She reflected afterwards on leading the World Cup standings:

“That is quite honestly something I’m not sure I’ve ever even dreamed of. Obviously, we have only had a few races, but it’s something I’m proud of nonetheless and while I’m not sure I expect to keep them all the whole season, I hope to do them proud while I have them and put up as good a fight as I can!”

The men’s 1.5 km Freestyle Sprint title went to Italy’s Federico Pellegrino, winning by 2.14 seconds ahead of Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov, 2:17.68-2:19.81, with Britain’s Andrew Young third (+3.63). Bolshunov then led a Russian sweep on Sunday, winning the Freestyle 15 km in 32:46.4, ahead of Andrey Melnichenko (+32.2) and Artem Maltsev (+39.5).

The FIS Ski Flying World Championships were held off the awesome 240 m hill in Planica (SLO), with German Karl Geiger taking the individual title with 877.2 points, ahead of the season’s early star, Norwegian Halvor Egner Granerud (876.7) and German Markus Eisenbichler (859.3). It’s Geiger’s first world title; he won silver in the 2019 World Ski Championships off the 130 m hill in Innsbruck (AUT) last year.

Granerud got a gold, however, in the Team Jumping competition on Sunday, teaming with Daniel Andre Tande, Johann Forfang and Robert Johansson to pile up 1,727.7 points to out-distance Germany (1,708.5) and Poland (1,665.5). Both Geiger and Eisenbichler earned silvers with the German team.

Snowboard ● The season-opening races in Parallel Slalom were on tap in Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA), with 2015 World Champion Roland Fischnaller (ITA) delighting the home (television) audience, leading an all-Italian final, winning ahead of Aaron March. Austria’s Benjamin Karl took the bronze and prevented an Italian sweep, with Mirko Felicetti fourth.

Czech star Ester Ledecka won the women’s Parallel Giant Slalom by daylight over German Selina Joerg, with Ramona Hofmeister (GER) edging fellow German Cheyenne Loch for third.

Wrestling ● The United World Wrestling Individual World Cup is on from 12-18 December in Belgrade (SRB), with the men’s Greco-Roman competition finishing up, to be followed by women’s Freestyle and then men’s Freestyle.

Many of the top teams have stayed away due to the pandemic, but Russia is making the most of its participation, with finalists in nine of the 10 Greco-Roman weight classes.

Emin Sefershaev (55 kg), Nazir Abdullaev (67 kg) and Roman Vlasov (77 kg) won their classes on Sunday, and Davit Chakvetadze lost to Belarusian Kiryl Maskevich at 87 kg. Balint Korpasi (HUN) defeated Malkhas Amoyan (ARM) on criteria at 72 kg in the only class not including a Russian finalist.

The remaining finals and the women’s Freestyle will continue on Monday.

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