VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (AP) — Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins gave the United States its first world championship gold medal in cross-country skiing Sunday by winning the women’s team sprint by nearly eight seconds.
After Diggins opened up a small lead on her last leg, Randall anchored the American duo to the victory with a scorching final lap to pull away from the Swedish and Finnish teams.
The U.S. pair finished the 6x1.2-kilometer event in 20 minutes, 24.4 seconds, beating Swedish defending champions Charlotte Kalla and Ida Ingemarsdotter by 7.8 seconds. Finland’s Riika Sarasoja-Lilja and Krista Lahteenmaki were third, 10.9 seconds behind the Americans.
“It feels incredible,” Randall said. “This is something we’ve looked forward to for a long time. It’s my seventh world championship and I’ve had to spend a lot of time watching award ceremonies, so we’re pretty excited to do it, and in a team event especially, and to finally get us on the podium.
“That moment when your teammate comes running out (in the finish area), it starts to sink in that you’re world champion.”
Norway, one of the pre-race favorites, finished fourth after Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg fell.
It was the second American gold at these Nordic skiing worlds after Sarah Hendrickson’s victory in the women’s ski jump. Randall became the first American woman to win a cross-country medal at worlds in 2009 when she took silver in the individual sprint.
Randall is known as one of the top sprinters on the circuit, with seven individual World Cup victories in the discipline, to go with one win in the team event — also with Diggins in Quebec in December.
“I’m sprinting with the best sprinter in the world,” Diggins said. “I knew that if I could get her to take off in a good position, she’d be able to hold it and improve upon it. So I just tried to get her in the best spot I could.”
Diggins made her break on the second-to-last leg, attacking on the steepest climb of the track. The 21-year-old pushed so hard she even broke a pole near the top, but her coach was on hand to rush and give her a replacement.
At the final change-over, Diggins was 1.4 seconds ahead of Kalla — and Randall then extended the lead with the fastest lap of any skier in the final.
“I started crying when I realized my mom and dad were watching on TV,” Diggins said. “It started to sink in, and we’ve been training so long for this. It means a lot for the whole team because it takes an entire team to make a race like this come together. Hopefully, it’ll inspire some young skiers in the U.S. to go after it and stick with the sport.”
In the men’s 6x1.5-kilometer event, Alexei Petukhov and Nikita Kriukov of Russia beat Sweden’s Marcus Hellner and Emil Joensson by 0.4 seconds to win in 21:30.9.
Kazakhstan duo Nikolay Chebotko and Alexey Poltoranin won a photo finish for bronze, edging out defending champions Canada by 0.03 seconds.
A strong climb by Petukhov on his final lap gave Russia the lead at the final exchange, leaving Olympic champion Kriukov — who won the individual sprint Thursday — to wrap up the victory.
Poltoranin clinched bronze with a perfectly timed plunge to place his boot ahead of Alex Harvey’s.
France’s Pinturault wins World Cup giant slalom
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Alexis Pinturault of France used a daring second run to win a World Cup giant slalom Sunday as his closest German challengers faltered.
Pinturault was second after the first heat, behind hometown favorite Felix Neureuther and ahead of Fritz Dopfer. But Dopfer crashed out in the second run and Neureuther made a mistake that dropped him down in the standings. Germany was seeking its first men’s giant slalom victory in 40 years.
World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria and world champion Ted Ligety of the United States profited from the Germans’ mistakes to take second and third, respectively.
Pinturault clocked a combined time of 2 minutes, 32.42 seconds for his second win of the season and his first giant slalom victory.
“I have good memories from Garmisch, I also won the junior giant slalom title here in 2009,” said Pinturault, who now has three career World Cup victories.
Hirscher overcame a stomach virus to extend his overall World Cup lead. He was 0.60 seconds behind the winner and Ligety was 0.63 back.
Ligety, the GS specialist who also won two other gold medals at the worlds in Schladming, Austria that concluded a week ago, was fifth after an error-filled first run. The American also made a mistake in the second heat, losing his line at the same spot where Neureuther nearly went off the course.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze clinches World Cup title
MERIBEL, France (AP) — There was only one fitting way for Tina Maze to wrap up the overall World Cup title — with another victory, and with plenty of time to spare.
She clinched her first crystal globe Sunday by winning a super-combined for eighth win of the season. So overpowering was her season that she clinched the overall trophy with nine races to go.
“It’s really special because it’s so difficult to win. For me, it’s special to continue this level of skiing,” said Maze, who celebrated with a cartwheel. “To be on the top is amazing. It’s a great season for me. Even if there have been ups and downs I have always come back.”
To Maze, it was also the perfect response to doubters back home in Slovenia. Some mocked her for having the audacity to dream about becoming the world’s best skier.
“I think the people are realizing that the dream came true, that one year ago they were saying ‘Ah, this Maze, she’s making jokes when she says she will win a globe or something like that. Yeah, she’s full of herself’ and these kinds of things,” Maze said. “In Slovenia, it’s (the) mentality. It’s better to be sometimes (more mainstream) than to go out (and be different) from the majority.
“I didn’t want to be like everybody else. So I’m always looking for something else, something better, something different and I’m really proud of that.”
Maze led the downhill and coasted home in the slalom after Maria Hoefl-Riesch crashed out of contention. She tied a season record with her 18th top-three finish, matching the podium mark set by Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden and Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein.
“I’m an emotional person, I didn’t want to cry (on the podium),” Maze said, adding she felt sick before the slalom. “I went to the toilet six times before I started. A lot of people (were) sick and I guess I get something from them, too.”
Maze has 1,844 points in the overall standings and looks all but certain to break the season record —men or women — of 2,000 held by Austrian great Hermann Maier.
Hoefl-Riesch is second in the overall standings but is 958 points behind and has no chance of closing the gap. Each victory is worth 100 points.
Lindsey Vonn, the four-time overall winner and defending champion, fell out of contention after she took a monthlong break because of an intestinal illness and then was done for the season after a knee injury at the world championships. Vonn is still third overall with 740 points.
“I’m really tired now, especially after a long day like today,” the 29-year-old Maze said. “Today was so tough, I didn’t know where I was. I almost went off the course twice. But I just managed to catch the gates. It’s crazy.”
She is also seeking to become only the third woman to have at least one win in all five disciplines in one season, and lacks only a downhill victory. She had a chance Saturday but finished fourth. She has two downhills remaining, starting next week in the German resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Vonn won 12 races last season and Maze has a chance of matching that, although Swiss great Vreni Schneider’s single-season World Cup record of 14 wins appears out of sight. Nicole Hosp of Austria, the world championship bronze medalist in the super-combi, finished second. Countrywoman Michaela Kirchgasser took third place with a superb slalom run — 42.66 seconds to Maze’s 44.26.
France wins Nordic combined team title at worlds
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (AP) — Olympic champion Jason Lamy Chappuis led France to victory in the Nordic combined team event at the world championships Sunday, and the United States took bronze for its first medal at worlds in the event.
Chappuis, who won the individual title Friday, beat Magnus Moan in a close sprint on the final straight to finish 0.4 seconds ahead of the Norwegian. American Bill Demong came in 4.2 seconds behind Lamy Chappuis.
France — whose team also included Francois Braud, Maxime Laheurte and Sebastien Lacroixs — started the cross-country relay 22 seconds behind Japan, which won the ski-jumping phase.
Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher, Todd Lodwick and Demong earned the bronze for the U.S. The American team won silver in the team event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Langenhan wins luge World Cup meet in Sochi
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Germany’s Andi Langenhan won the final luge World Cup meet of the season Sunday, while Felix Loch of Germany clinched the overall title.
The two-day meet, an Olympic test event at Sochi’s Sanki track that ends Sunday with the team relay, featured above-freezing temperatures and steady rain. Langenhan, the reigning world silver medalist, finished his two runs with a combined time of 1 minute, 47.335 seconds, just 0.004 seconds ahead of Russia’s Albert Demchenko. David Moeller of Germany was third.
Loch, the current world and Olympic champion, finished only sixth in the meet, but that was enough to claim the overall World Cup title. Langenhan and Moeller were second and third. Josef Fendt, head of the international luge federation, said Sunday that the test event left observers happy with the track’s safety and ice condition.
In the team relay, which will be an Olympic event for the first time at Sochi next year, Langenhan joined Tatjana Huefner, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, who had won gold in the women’s and men’s doubles competition Saturday, to win in 2:51.553, ahead of the Russian team by 0.156 seconds. Canada was third.
Germany also won the team relay overall World Cup, with Italy in second place and the United States third.
Japan wins mixed team ski jump at Nordic worlds
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (AP) — Japan won the first mixed team ski jumping title Sunday for its first gold medal of the Nordic skiing world championships.
Yuki Ito, Daiki Ito, Sara Takanashi and Taku Takeuchi dominated in both rounds to total of 1,011 points. The event features two men and two women on each team.
The Austrian team of Chiara Hoelzl, Thomas Morgenstern, Jacqueline Seifriedsberger and Gregor Schlierenzauer was second with 986.7 points. That was 1.8 more points ahead of the German team of Ulrike Graessler, Richard Freitag, Carina Vogt and Severin Freund.
Sarah Hendrickson beat Takanashi to win the women’s title Friday. She had two impressive jumps each worth more than 130 points, but the United States finished sixth out of 10 teams.