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Austria’s Kriechmayr wins first Kitzbuehel downhill

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Austria's Kriechmayr wins first Kitzbuehel downhill

World champion Vincent Kriechmayr kicked off a weekend of high-octane World Cup action in Kitzbuehel with a victory on home snow in the opening men s downhill on Friday.

Kriechmayr clocked 1min 56.16sec for the win on the mythical Streif piste down the Hahnenkamm mountain overlooking Kitzbuehel.

Renowned as the toughest course on the men s World Cup circuit, Kriechmayr pocketed prize money of 100,000 euros ($108,000), part of a 1m-euro pot on offer for three days of racing in the upmarket Austrian resort.

“It wasn t completely flawless,” said Kriechmayr, describing his run as “at the limit”.

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“I don t think I got it right at the top either. I don t know why, but I wasn t among the fastest there. But overall great, I fought everywhere,” said the 31-year-old who is also reigning world super-G champion.

Unknown Italian Florian Schieder, whose previous bests are two 13th places in downhills in Val Gardena and Bormio this season, shocked the field by coming in second.

The 27-year-old policeman, in his fifth season, finished 0.23sec off the Austrian s pace despite starting with his lowly start bib of 43 as the track turned for the better as the day progressed.

“When I saw second place at the finish it was almost a shock,” said Schieder. “It went perfectly. The light was better for me, of course, but you have to be able to take advantage of that in the first place.”

Switzerland s Niels Hintermann rounded out the podium, at 0.31sec, just ahead of late-charging American Jared Goldberg (+0.35).

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Odermatt, Kilde mistakes

Hintermann s teammate Marco Odermatt, runaway leader in the World Cup overall standings and seeking a breakthrough maiden downhill victory, paid the price for a big mistake up high on the course.

The 25-year-old was forced into a drastic one-ski save to avoid hitting the netting of a course that has a stomach-churning vertiginous start that propels racers to 100km/h in five seconds.

Odermatt eventually came down a distant 3.20sec off Kriechmayr s pace, while the Swiss racer s closest rival, Norway s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, also didn t have it his own way.

The Norwegian looked like he d bagged at least a podium spot but went wide in the final turn and was forced into an equally dramatic save, eventually finishing 16th, 0.97sec down.

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Olympic champion Beat Feuz, seeking a fourth Kitzbuehel downhill victory before he hangs up his skis at the end of the season, finished 28th (+1.42).

The top speed of the day was notched up by American Travis Ganong, who clocked an eye-watering 143km/h (89mph) in finishing joint seventh alongside Slovenian Miha Hrobat, just behind Italian three-time Kitzbuehel winner Dominik Paris and Norwegian Adrin Smiseth Sejersted in joint fifth.

While Kitzbuehel has been witness to many gruesome crashes over the years, the downhill was seemingly en route to escaping any such drama in front of a large crowd after two years of Covid-19 restrictions that saw fan numbers heavily reduced.

But disaster struck late on when Norway s Henrik Roea, starting 48th of 58 racers, caught an edge just metres before the finish line.

The Norwegian was propelled forwards as his legs split, landing heavily in a freak accident that cast a sombre mood over proceedings. Medics were quickly on the scene and Roea was transported immediately by helicopter to hospital.

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Racers will contest a second downhill on Saturday, with a slalom programmed for Sunday. 

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Attempted rape charge against Man Utd star Greenwood dropped

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Attempted rape charge against Man Utd star Greenwood dropped

Charges of attempted rape and assault against Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood have been dropped by prosecutors, British police said on Thursday.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material coming to light were factors in their decision to stop the case against the 21-year-old.

Greater Manchester Police said it was “only fair” that they announce that Greenwood, who was arrested in January last year, would no longer face criminal proceedings “given the significant media coverage of this case”.

The striker originally faced one count of attempted rape, one count of controlling and coercive behaviour and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, all against the same complainant.

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“In this case a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction,” the CPS said in a statement.

“In these circumstances, we are under a duty to stop the case.”

Greenwood, who has played 129 times for United, scoring 35 goals, last played for United against West Ham in January last year.

“Given the significant media coverage of this case, it is only fair that we share the news that the 21-year-old man, who had been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation opened in January 2022, no longer faces criminal proceedings in relation to this,” said chief superintendent Michaela Kerr.

“The investigation team has remained in regular contact with the legal team, providing any updates of note, and so understand the rationale for the discontinuation of proceedings at this stage, and that this decision has not been taken lightly.

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“Despite the media and public’s interest in this case, we have decided not to comment on it in any further detail.

Greenwood, a product of United’s academy, and once considered one of English football’s brightest prospects, made his senior debut for the Red Devils in a Champions League victory at Paris Saint-Germain in March 2019.

He signed a new contract at United in February 2021 that runs until at least 2025.

The forward made his England debut against Iceland in September 2020, but he and Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden were sent home after breaching the team’s coronavirus guidelines.

Nike suspended and later terminated its sponsorship deal with the player, while Electronic Arts confirmed his removal from active squads on its FIFA 22 game following his arrest. 

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Potter’s free-spending Chelsea can ‘attack’ end of the season

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Potter's free-spending Chelsea can 'attack' end of the season

Chelsea manager Graham Potter says he is excited by the challenge of getting the best out of a bloated squad after the Blues smashed spending records during the January transfer window.

World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez could make his debut against Fulham on Friday after joining for a British-record 121 million euros ($132 million, £107 million) from Benfica.

Ukraine’s Mykhailo Mudryk could also make his Stamford Bridge bow after joining from Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee that could rise to 100 million euros.

Chelsea signed eight players in total in January, taking their total spend in the first season under new ownership to more than £500 million.

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Despite the investment, Chelsea sit 10th in the Premier League table and were dumped out of both domestic cups by Manchester City.

Potter’s men have a 10-point deficit to make up if they are to catch the top four.

And the former Brighton boss faces a tricky task ahead, unable to register all the new arrivals for the latter stages of this season’s Champions League.

“It’s exciting,” said Potter, who only arrived at the club in September.

“It’s a test for me of course and for the staff and everybody but it’s an exciting one. We’ve got a lot of really good players.

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“We have to create an environment where there’s healthy competition and they can push each other and at the same time understand that there’s going to be frustration at times because only 11 can play.

“But we’ve got a lot of important games and we need to improve our results so it’s about playing, supporting the team and being ready to play.”

Options

Potter suddenly has a wealth of options at his disposal, with Chelsea’s long injury list beginning to clear.

Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Raheem Sterling and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are available again for selection.

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“There is a youthful dynamic and you can see the type of player we’ve tried to sign. We are trying to build something for now and the future,” Potter said, referring to Chelsea’s much-criticised transfer policy.

“We’ve had a pretty unprecedented injury situation, lots of things have happened. We’ve learnt a lot and we can attack the second half of the season.”

Argentina’s Fernandez was signed with minutes to spare as protracted negotiations with Benfica went down to the wire on Tuesday’s deadline day.

But not all of Chelsea’s business was completed — a move to send Hakim Ziyech to Paris Saint-Germain on loan collapsed after the paperwork was not finished in time.

“I’m the head coach so I don’t get too involved in the nitty gritty of deadline day,” said Potter.

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“I’ve been involved too long to know that there are some things you can’t control and I couldn’t do anything at that point to change things. I found out that we had signed Enzo when it was all done and I’m very pleased, because he is a fantastic player.” 

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France defender Varane announces international retirement at 29

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France defender Varane announces international retirement at 29

a decade has been one of the greatest honours of my life. Each time I wore this special blue shirt I felt immense pride,” said Varane.

Varane’s decision to call time on his France career leaves Kylian Mbappe as the frontrunner for the captaincy, with Didier Deschamps’ side set to begin Euro 2024 qualifying at the end of March with a double-header against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.

The former Real Madrid star played every minute of his country’s triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign as France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the final.

He was one of five French players who also started the 2022 final defeat by Argentina on penalties, recovering from a leg injury that ruled him out of the start of the tournament.

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“I’ll definitely miss these moments with you, but the time has come for the new generation to take over,” he said, thanking Deschamps and his coaching staff as well as the supporters.

“We have a group of talented young players who are ready to step up and who deserve their chance.”

Deschamps paid tribute to Varane and praised him for the leadership qualities he had brought to the team throughout his time with France.

“I cannot turn this page without some emotion, given the bonds we have formed,” said Deschamps, who gave Varane his international debut in a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Georgia.

“I respect his decision even if it may seem a bit unfortunate given everything he was able to do with the national team through to the World Cup, during which he behaved like the leader we know he is from start to finish.” 

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