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

Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

AP
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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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VIDEO: Nathan Chen makes more history at season opener

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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