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

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37