Hirscher silences critics
Marcel Hirscher silenced his critics in style when he won the most coveted slalom of the season in Schladming, Austria, on Tuesday, days after being embroiled in a bitter controversy over a previous victory. The Austrian won the floodlit race on the Planai piste, lined by 50,000 fans, in a combined time of 1 minute, 43.01 seconds for his sixth victory of the World Cup season. The 22-year-old Hirscher beat Italy’s Stefano Gross by 0.22 seconds, while fellow Austrian Mario Matt was third, a further 0.07 seconds behind. World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia missed the podium by 0.01 seconds, but he retained top spot in the race for the overall title with an 80-point lead over Hirscher. The Austrian had never previously made it on to the podium on home snow and the result was a relief after the weekend’s row over his victory in Zagreb earlier this month. Hirscher’s performance on Jan. 5 was questioned after slow-motion videotapes showed he had straddled a gate — a mistake that should lead to disqualification — before being awarded victory.
Wizards fire Saunders
The Washington Wizards fired coach Flip Saunders on Tuesday after opening the season with a NBA-worst 2-15 record. The Wizards, who started the season with eight consecutive losses, were trounced by the Philadelphia 76ers 103-83 on Monday, their seventh road loss in as many tries this year. Assistant Randy Wittman will take over on an interim basis for the remainder of the season, beginning with the Wizards hosting the Charlotte Bobcats. “We felt the team had become unresponsive, and we will look to Randy to provide a different voice and a change in philosophy moving forward,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “We were disappointed in the lack of development of our players at this point in our rebuilding plan.”
Alex Ovechkin pulls out
Suspended Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has withdrawn from the NHL’s annual All-Star Game, saying he did not deserve to be there. The game, on Sunday in Ottawa, comes during the winger’s three-game suspension for a hit to the head and the Russian said he should not be allowed to play. “My heart is not there. I am suspended, so why I have to go there?” Ovechkin told reporters. “I don’t want to be a target. I feel like I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I’m suspended, I have to be suspended.” Ovechkin, a two-time winner of the NHL Most Valuable Player award, was suspended by the NHL on Monday for a hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek on Sunday. Capitals general manager George McPhee said the team supported Ovechkin’s decision. “It is a great event and he doesn’t want that distraction, and we don’t want it either,” McPhee said.
Taiwo joins QPR on loan
Nigeria international Taye Taiwo has joined English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers on loan from Italian giants AC Milan, it was confirmed on Tuesday. The 26-year-old will remain at Loftus Road until the end of the season after struggling to win a regular place in the starting lineup at Milan since joining from French side Olympique de Marseille last summer. The defender, who can also play in midfield, was reportedly the subject of interest from Arsenal, but he has joined QPR after receiving a work permit. Recently appointed QPR boss Mark Hughes was delighted to have secured Taiwo’s signature. “I have known of him for a long time and admired him from afar,” Hughes said.