Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin wins slalom, reindeer in Levi (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won the first World Cup slalom of the season and its unusual prize in Levi, Finland, on Saturday.

The prodigious U.S. teen clocked 1 minute, 55.07 seconds over two runs, beating reigning Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by a comfortable 1.06. World Cup overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia was third in 1:56.68.

Shiffrin’s spoils include a 6-month-old reindeer that she gets to name (update: the name is Rudolph) and visit every year she comes back to Levi. Remember, Lindsey Vonn was offered prize money or a cow when she won in Val d’Isere, France, in 2005, and chose the cow that she named Olympe.

“I just wanted to take the second run as its own race and really hammer it,” Shiffrin told Eurosport. “It’s nice to know that one of my goals is to keep my slalom standings. At least I’m not that far off.”

“I scared him off a bit when I jumped off the podium to meet him, but I think we will be getting along,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “I hope that when he gets older and trained I can go for a ride on a sledge with him.”

Shiffrin, 18, led Maze by .52 of a second after the first run Saturday morning, despite a mistake in windy conditions north of the Arctic Circle.

She’s now won five World Cup slaloms, all in the last 11 months, and is coming off her best career World Cup giant slalom finish (sixth) in the Soelden, Austria, season opener on Oct. 26.

This comes after taking the World Cup and World Championships slalom titles last season.

“She’s an amazing skier,” Hoefl-Riesch said of Shiffrin, according to The Associated Press. “We already knew that from last year, she is such a talented girl and strong in her head and we will have lots of fun with her the next 10 years I guess.”

One Olympic medal contender did not fare as well.

Austrian Marlies Schild, in her first World Cup since a December 2012 knee injury, missed a gate in the first run. Schild topped the World Cup slalom standings in 2011 and 2012 and was one of Shiffrin’s idols growing up.

The next World Cup stop is Beaver Creek, Colo., where Shiffrin may enter the second of her two disciplines, giant slalom, Dec. 1. The next World Cup slalom is Dec. 17 in Courchevel, France.

Ted Ligety leads the U.S. men in the Levi slalom Sunday. Ligety, the triple 2013 world gold medalist, has never won a World Cup slalom and has not made a podium since 2008 but worked extra on the technical discipline during the offseason.

Levi Slalom
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:55.07
2. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:56.13
3. Tina Maze (SLO) 1:56.68
4. Christina Ager (AUT) 1:56.73
5. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 1:56.80
6. Christina Geiger (GER) 1:56.86
7. Nina Loeseth (NOR) 1:56.95
8. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) 1:56.97
9. Anna Swenn-Larsson (SWE) 1:57.14
10. Denise Feierabend (SUI) 1:57.22

Marcel Hirscher compares pressure to crazy dogs who want to eat him

Watch profile of Kyle Snyder, youngest American to win wrestling World title

Kyle Snyder
AP
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Kyle Snyder, who became the youngest American to win a World Wrestling Championship on Sept. 11, had planned to redshirt his sophomore year at Ohio State to focus on training for the Rio Olympics.

But Snyder is back wrestling for the Buckeyes this season.

Why?

“Kyle wants to help the team win the national title,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “It doesn’t hurt Kyle’s chances to make the Olympic team. We meet. He jumps on it.”

The announcement that Snyder would wrestle this season was made at 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Learn more about Snyder in an NBC Columbus affiliate profile.

MORE WRESTLING: Burroughs says he’s ‘on Mount Rushmore’

Lydia Ko: Olympics are top priority this year

Lydia Ko
AP
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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Top-ranked golfer Lydia Ko says the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be her top priority this year.

Ko, who will defend her New Zealand Open title from Friday, said there was “so much excitement and vibe” around the Olympic tournament, “especially as it’s the first time women will play at the Olympics in golf.”

The 18-year-old New Zealander said “ever since they announced that golf will be in the Olympics I said, ‘Hey, I want to get myself on that team.’ For any athlete to say you’re an Olympian is a whole new proud feeling, and to represent your country on such an international stage it’s going to be a pretty special week.”

The 54-hole New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Golf Club is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies PGA.

MORE: Inbee Park criticizes Olympic golf