SKIING

Linus Strasser won the first men’s World Cup race of 2021 on Wednesday in Zagreb, Croatia, becoming the first German skier to win a slalom in more than three years.

Strasser mastered the tricky Crveni Spust course as he improved from eighth place after the opening run to lead a trio of Austrians. He beat Manuel Feller by 0.10 seconds while Marco Schwarz was six-hundredths further back in third. The result sent Feller to the top of the slalom season standings.

Michael Matt was fastest in the second run and climbed from 26th to fourth place. First-run leader Clement Noel, last year’s winner, posted only the 27th best time in the final run and dropped to seventh.

The previous German slalom winner was Felix Neureuther, who won in Levi, Finland, in November 2017.

“I got a little bit emotional. I don’t really realize it,” Strasser said Wednesday.

Strasser regretted that the race on the outskirts of the Croatian capital took place without fans, like almost all World Cup events over the last year.

“Normally we have a big crowd here cheering for us and now it’s just us, just the small skiing family,” Strasser said. “It’s mixed feelings but I am really happy for winning my first special slalom event. Not having the fans next to us is weird but, still, the emotions in me are hyped up.”

BASEBALL

MAJORS: Right-hander Art Warren was sent by the Texas Rangers to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000.

Texas claimed Warren off waivers from Seattle on Oct. 21 and designated him for assignment on Dec. 26 when the Rangers signed right-hander Kohei Arihara to a $6.2 million, two-year contract.

Warren, a 27-year-old right-hander, made his big league debut in September 2019 with Seattle and went 1-0 in 5 1/3 scoreless innings over six relief appearances. He did not pitch in the major leagues last season, spending time at the Mariners’ alternate training site.

Seattle selected him in the 15th round of the 2015 amateur draft.

TOMMY JOHN has been battling COVID-19 for at least three weeks, but the former pitching great disputes reports that he is a coronavirus denier.

“I’m not a denier. I’ve had it, baby,” John said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The 77-year-old John remains hospitalized near his home in Indio, California. He said he started to feel ill following a trip to Nashville before he was hospitalized on Dec. 13.

John said he has had a bout of pneumonia and did receive oxygen, but is not presently on oxygen. He said the biggest side effect at the moment is he has no strength in his legs.

As far as some of the other symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as loss of taste or smell, John said he didn’t experience those.

“I feel good. The only thing right now is trying to arrange for someone to do physical therapy from my home,” he said.

AUTO RACING

INDYCAR: IndyCar has moved what was supposed to be its season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, to April 25.

The race through the downtown city streets had been scheduled to start the new season for a 10th consecutive year on March 7. IndyCar’s season opener will now be held at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 11.

The switch gives St. Pete promoters hope that more spectators will be permitted to attend the popular street festival as pandemic restrictions loosen. IndyCar previously rescheduled the Grand Prix of Long Beach from April until September because of restrictions in California. That move opened room on the schedule for St. Pete to request a later race date.

“It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” said Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles, adding that the April 25 date for St. Pete is “a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC network television.”

IndyCar was already in St. Pete last March and prepared to open its season when sports shut down at the start of the pandemic. The season ultimately did not start until June and St. Pete was moved to October as the finale.

HOCKEY

NHL: The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning have partnered with the Florida Panthers to offer use of its American Hockey League affiliate Syracuse Crunch for the 2020-21 season.

Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois and Panthers General Manager Bill Zito jointly announced the plan Wednesday. It’s a solution to problems created when the Charlotte Checkers, Florida’s AHL affiliate, opted out of the season following safety and logistical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the partnership, the Panthers will be able to assign players to the Crunch to train, practice and play. The Crunch coaching and support staff will remain intact, led by head coach Ben Groulx.

• The Nashville Predators signed forward Luke Kunin to a two-year, $4.6 million contract.

The Predators acquired Kunin, 23, on Oct. 7 in a trade with Minnesota. Kunin just finished his third professional season, and he played 63 games for the Wild scoring 15 goals and 16 assists. The 6-foot, 192-pound forward has played in 131 career NHL games and has 52 points.

SOCCER

PREMIER LEAGUE: Manchester City says reserve goalkeeper Scott Carson and midfielder Cole Palmer are among three people at the Premier League club to have tested positive for the coronavirus in the latest round of checks.

City had six players missing for Sunday’s 3-1 win at Chelsea in the league because they had contracted COVID-19. They were goalkeeper Ederson, defenders Kyle Walker and Eric Garcia, midfielder Tommy Doyle and forwards Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres.

City plays at Manchester United in the English League Cup semifinals on Wednesday and Manager Pep Guardiola has said “we don’t have many players” for the game. City says the third person to have tested positive for the coronavirus in the latest round of checks is a member of staff.


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