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

Kerri Walsh Jennings pleased by result after longest break in 5 years

Kerri Walsh Jennings
FIVB World Tour
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Kerri Walsh Jennings returned from her longest competition break since 2013 and, with partner Nicole Branagh, nearly beat the world’s top-ranked team.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh ultimately were eliminated in the round of 16 at the Xiamen Open in China.

“We WILL do better,” was posted on Walsh Jennings’ social media. “We actually had a great showing and learned and battled and improved – sometimes the stats don’t show everything.”

Walsh Jennings and Branagh, a pair of 39-year-old moms, played together for the first time since July 22, when Walsh Jennings’ five-times surgically repaired right shoulder popped out mid-match.

Walsh Jennings, eyeing her sixth and final Olympics in 2020, underwent a sixth shoulder surgery and an ankle surgery and did not return to training on the beach until March (her longest break between hitting a ball on sand since switching from indoor following the 2000 Olympics).

The duo won their opening Xiamen match in three sets last week, then lost a three-setter to the world’s No. 1 team in group play. Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes prevailed 21-15, 22-24, 18-16 en route to the tournament title.

After Walsh Jennings and Branagh swept American qualifiers Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman in the first elimination round, they squandered a one-set lead in the round of 16. Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy eliminated them 19-21, 21-16, 20-18.

Walsh Jennings said before flying to Xiamen that she and Branagh would next play on the FIVB World Tour at the Itapema Open in Brazil in mid-May. In four FIVB World Tour events since partnering last year, they were eliminated in qualifying once, bounced in the round of 16 twice and forfeited a bronze-medal match due to that shoulder dislocation.

Early season partner changes defined the U.S. women’s landscape. In Xiamen, one of those new teams, Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar, reached the final, losing to the Canadians.

It marked the first final four appearance on the senior FIVB World Tour for the 22-year-old Claes, an NCAA champion at USC with former partner Sara Hughes, and for the 36-year-old Hochevar, the older sister of former Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar.

MORE: Walsh Jennings documents comeback from surgeries

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Watch Dateline special on McKayla Maroney, Larry Nassar; full episode

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McKayla MaroneyAly Raisman and Martha and Bela Karolyi spoke about their experiences with Larry Nassar in “Silent No More,” an NBC News’ DATELINE special that aired Sunday night.

It marked Maroney’s first interview since she went public as one of the hundreds of survivors who said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for two decades.

The Karolyis, both former U.S. women’s national team coordinators, spoke on camera for the first time regarding Nassar, too. Olympians said they were abused at the Karolyis’ ranch in Texas at national team training camps.

Maroney said that at 2011 Worlds in Tokyo she told John Geddert, the personal coach of teammate Jordyn Wieber and head coach for the U.S. team at the event, that Nassar abused her.

NBC News reported that three other people in the car at the time remembered Maroney’s account from seven years ago. Geddert did not respond to requests for comment.

Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics in January and is facing a criminal investigation after Nassar, who molested girls at Geddert’s gym in Michigan, was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison on Jan. 24. Geddert said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Karolyis deny knowledge of Nassar crimes | Maroney’s first speech on Nassar