Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin 6th in season opener; Lara Gut wins (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin posted a career-best World Cup giant slalom finish in the season opener in Soelden, Austria, taking sixth behind winner Lara Gut of Switzerland on Saturday.

Reigning World Cup overall champion Tina Maze, who made the podium in every giant slalom last season, had her worst GS finish in more than two years — 18th.

Gut, a three-time World Championships silver medalist, won her first World Cup giant slalom in 2 minutes, 25.16 seconds, well in front of Austrian Kathrin Zettel (2:26.00) and German Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg (2:26.44).

“For me it was a big fight,” Gut, who led by .77 after the opening run, said of her second run on Eurosport.

Shiffrin, 18, matched her sixth-place result from the World Championships in March. She was fifth after the first of two runs and clocked 2:26.78 overall.

“Having good results always helps your confidence,” Shiffrin said. “It’s reassurance that you belong here. That’s how it always is for me. Every race last year, I’d come down and get a top 10, and I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, I still deserve to be here.’ It’s just another one of those days.”

Shiffrin beats male teammates

Shiffrin is known for her slalom prowess (2013 World and World Cup champion) but spent the offseason working on improving her giant slalom and becoming a multiple-medal threat in Sochi.

It paid off. Her best World Cup GS result last year was eighth, and she will probably keep rising with experience this season.

“I just feel like the sky’s the limit,” she said. “My biggest goal this year is to keep my slalom, hopefully, but improve that GS so that it can hopefully match my slalom.”

Maze, sixth after the first of two runs, clocked a 2:28.21 total after winning in Soelden last year.

Julia Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic giant slalom champion, was 27th in 2:28.85. She’s better in the speed events now, so expect her to be a podium contender in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Thanksgiving weekend.

Lindsey Vonn had been training in Austria but opted not to race Soelden, setting her comeback from major knee surgery for Beaver Creek.

Universal Sports will have coverage of the Soelden men’s giant slalom Sunday.

The women’s World Cup season continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 16, where the winners will receive a rather unusual prize.

Soelden Giant Slalom
1. Lara Gut (SUI) 2:25.16
2. Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 2:26.00
3. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) 2:26.44
4. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 2:26.57
5. Tina Weirather (LIE) 2:26.74
6. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 2:26.78
7. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) 2:27.07
8. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (SWE) 2:27.33
9. Dominique Gisin (SUI) 2:27.37
10. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 2:27.40
18. Tina Maze (SLO) 2:28.21
27. Julia Mancuso (USA) 2:28.85

Maze wins skier of the year award

Team USA keeper Rooney had ‘ice in her veins’ for shootout

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Maddie Rooney couldn’t stop smiling. She was on top of her game, and it didn’t seem to matter that it was a shootout against the powerhouse Canadians.

The first shootout in an Olympic women’s final.

With a gold medal on the line.

Her coach, Robb Stauber, made sure not to say a word to the 20-year-old goaltender.

“I know she has ice in her veins,” Stauber said.

It sure looked like it. Rooney made 29 saves through overtime, then turned away shots from four Canadians in the six-round shootout, smiling along the way at her jubilant teammates on the bench. The last save came against four-time Olympian Meghan Agosta to clinch a 3-2 victory that ended the Americans’ 20-year gold medal drought .

The goalie who took the year off from college at Minnesota-Duluth had outdueled three-time Olympian Shannon Szabados, who was among those who prefer overtime over a shootout to settle such an important game.

“It’s more individual and less of a team thing,” Szabados said. “It’s a little harder to swallow, but that’s the way it goes.”

The United States had to replace not one, two but all three of their goalies after losing gold in 2014 at Sochi. Rooney, who played her senior year of high school in Andover, Minnesota, on the boys’ varsity team, was the goalie in net for each of the three U.S. victories over Canada in pre-Olympic play. She bounced back from a 2-1 loss last week to Canada and then some on Thursday.

Rooney said she’s been told it’s important to stay calm under pressure. She is sure she’s been nervous at times.

“But pressure is power,” said the goalie whose job title on Wikipedia entry was briefly changed to U.S. “Secretary of Defense.”

Her teammates said they had complete confidence in Rooney, who has only been with the national team since the 2017 world championships. Gigi Marvin, the oldest on the roster at 30, has been rooming with Rooney. She called Rooney unbelievable in net, so strong that they had complete trust in her.

“She’s a gem, talk about poise,” Marvin said. “We all knew she had it. She has been around all year and she just owns it.”

Stauber, a former goalie, knows exactly what a goaltender that never gets rattled means for a team. He didn’t worry about Rooney even after Haley Irwin and captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in the second period to give Canada a 2-1 lead.

“Then she bounces back tall, after a goal or two,” Stauber said. “It sends a lot of confidence. It really is a classic example of a great goaltender.”

Monique Lamoureux-Morando scored on a breakaway late in the third period to force overtime. Rooney stopped all seven shots in the 20-minute overtime, which ended with a Canadian power play. In the shootout, Agosta beat her stick-side and Melodie Daoust scored, too.

That was it. Rooney stopped Natalie Spooner, Poulin and lastly Brianne Jenner and Agosta taking a second turn as Canada’s final shooters.

“Then it all came down to Maddie Rooney, and she had a gold medal-winning performance,” U.S. forward Hilary Knight said.

Amanda Kessel gets gold-medal encouragement from brother Phil

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) _ The night before she played for the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal, Amanda Kessel looked at her phone and saw text messages from her brother, Phil, offering encouragement.

“Just, ‘Proud of you no, matter what,’ and he believes in me,” Kessel said.

NBCOlympics.com: Gold at last: U.S. women beat rival Canada in epic shootout

Kessel hadn’t yet checked her phone in the minutes after she and the United States beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout for the gold medal in an instant classic between the sport’s two powerhouses.

Phil tweeted he was proud of his sister and all of Team USA.

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