Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin takes impressive second place at Beaver Creek giant slalom (video)

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American Mikaela Shiffrin continued her giant slalom ascent, finishing a career-best second at the World Cup stop in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday.

Shiffrin, 18, made her first World Cup giant slalom podium. She trailed only Swede Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, who beat Shiffrin by .44 of a second in the first run and hung on in the second run to win by .09.

Shiffrin’s best previous giant slalom result was sixth, both at the World Championships in February and at the World Cup season opener Oct. 26.

“Every race it takes something different, and every race is a new challenge,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “Sometimes you’re sick, sometimes you’re tired, sometimes there’s more pressure because it’s the home crowd. I was so happy today because it wasn’t really nerves that was getting me down the hill, I wanted to race. I couldn’t wait to get out of the starting gate. That was the coolest feeling for me. I’m going to try to take that into the next races.”

She’s already the world’s best slalom skier but has put more emphasis on giant slalom this year to become a multiple-medal threat at the Sochi Olympics in February.

“I’ve been skiing a lot of GS and a little bit of super-G, trying to get used to the speed and really arcing my turns,” Shiffrin, of nearby Vail, told NBC after her first run. “The more I train it, the more comfortable I am.”

It’s time to wonder when Shiffrin will branch out to speed events in competition, like the super-G. She said this summer she would only compete in slalom and giant slalom this season, though she considered the super combined.

Shiffrin competed in a downhill and a super-G at the Russian National Championships in Sochi last February, her first speed races since Nor-Am Cups three years ago, and said she strapped on downhill skis for the first time in her life in April.

Shiffrin has never done a downhill, super-G or super combined at a World Cup or World Championships.

Also Sunday, Julia Mancuso, who won the 2006 Olympic giant slalom, completed a disappointing weekend by failing to finish her second run.

“When things are going fast, it feels easy. When things are going bad, you feel like you want to give up,” Mancuso said, according to The Associated Press. “But it’s definitely one of those sports where one thing can click and you can go from being in last to winning. And I’ve done it myself. I’ve gone from 50th place in a downhill and won the next one.”

Swiss Lara Gut, who won three of the first four races this season, skied off the course in the opening run. That ended her hopes of becoming the first skier to win three straight races in different disciplines in 22 years. Gut still leads the World Cup overall standings, by 60 points over Shiffrin.

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues with speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, next weekend. Lindsey Vonn hopes to return.

Beaver Creek Giant Slalom
1. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (SWE) 2:17.92
2. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 2:18.01
3. Tina Weirather (LIE) 2:18.48
4. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) 2:18.77
5. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 2:19.04
6. Anemone Marmottan (FRA) 2:19.09
7. Federica Brignone (ITA) 2:19.18
8. Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) 2:19.28
9. Tessa Worley (FRA) 2:19.33
9. Marie-Pier Prefontaine (CAN) 2:19.33
DNF. Julia Mancuso (USA)

Vonn delays surgery with eye on Olympics

Minnesota Vikings’ curling TD celebration in NFC title game (video)

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Curling was the highlight of the NFC Championship Game for the Minnesota Vikings.

Kyle Rudolph caught a 25-yard touchdown on their opening drive against the Philadelphia Eagles, then launched into a four-man celebration warming up for the Winter Olympics.

Rudolph rolled the football in the end zone like a curling stone, while Latavius Murray and Stefon Diggs mimicked sweepers (just without the brooms). Adam Thielen rounded out the four-man rink.

The Vikings had no other scores to celebrate. They lost 38-7, upsetting the seven out of 10 curlers on the Olympic team who hail from Minnesota.

Earlier in the last two seasons, football players celebrated touchdowns with the hurdles, the long jumpbobsled, a relay and a race walk.

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Winter Olympics

Gus Kenworthy qualifies for Olympic ski slopestyle team

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Two nights after taking a massive slam in the halfpipe, Gus Kenworthy bounced back to earn a spot on his second U.S. Olympic slopestyle team.

Kenworthy placed second at the final Olympic qualifier for freeski slopestyle, which was held Sunday at Mammoth Mountain. That result, combined with a victory at a selection event last weekend, qualified him for the Olympic team.

It wasn’t the smoothest week for Kenworthy, who had been trying to make the U.S. team in both halfpipe and slopestyle.

During Friday night’s final qualifier for the ski halfpipe team, Kenworthy struggled to land a run and then had a hard crash on his final attempt.

On Saturday, he placed 58th out of 63 skiers in the preliminary round of a slopestyle selection event.

It was a different story on Sunday though.

By making the slopestyle team, Kenworthy will have another shot at an Olympic medal. He won a silver medal at the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, where slopestyle made its debut, and was part of a podium sweep alongside Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper.

Earlier in the day, Goepper became the first skier to make the men’s slopestyle Olympic team. Because of weather delays throughout the week, Mammoth ended up hosting a pair of Olympic qualifiers on Sunday.

Goepper and Kenworthy were the only skiers to earn automatic nominations onto the men’s slopestyle Olympic team during the qualifying period. Two more skiers can still be added to the team as discretionary selections.

McRae Williams, the 2017 X Games silver medalist, has a strong case for one of those two spots. He finished sixth and fifth at Sunday’s two slopestyle qualifiers.

The other spot on the team looks a little more uncertain. Among the riders likely in consideration is Alex Hall, who was fourth at the final qualifier and is the next ranked skier in terms of qualifying points. It’s also possible that reigning Olympic gold medalist Joss Christensen, who just returned to competition last week after rehabbing from a torn ACL, could be in the discussion.

While Kenworthy is now assured a spot on the slopestyle team, he’s likely on the outside looking in for halfpipe. The three automatic spots have already been allocated to David Wise, Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace, and the discretionary spot appears likely to go to Aaron Blunck.

Discretionary picks for both slopestyle and halfpipe are expected to be announced in the next few days.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Freeski Slopestyle
After 5 of 5 Events:

1. Gus Kenworthy, 180** (QUALIFIED)
2. Nick Goepper, 160** (QUALIFIED)
3. McRae Williams, 95
4. Alex Hall, 95
5. Quinn Wolferman, 79
6. Bobby Brown, 68
7. Noah Wallace, 60
8. Joss Christensen, 60

**Has met qualifying minimum of two top-three finishes.