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 skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

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Kobe Bryant announces retirement but remains in contention for Rio team

Kobe Bryant
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Veteran basketball player and 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire from professional basketball after the end of this season. However, ESPN reported that the chairman of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, said that Bryant “remains in contention for Team USA spot for Rio 2016.”

In the form of a poem titled “Dear Basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote:

This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

Bryant played on the U.S. national team from 2007 to 2012. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he scored 20 points in the gold medal game to win gold over Spain. He helped the U.S. men to gold again in 2012, then said that it would be his last Olympics.

But he’s changed his tune in recent months. Bryant told the Associated Press in November that he’d like a shot at another Olympics.

“I would like to play,” Bryant said. “I think it’d be awesome. A beautiful experience.”

If he were selected and won again, Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony would become the first U.S. male basketball players to win three gold Olympic medals.

In the AP interview Bryant spoke glowingly of his Olympic teammates. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” he said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”

He also said he believes he’d be an asset to the team, stating, “I feel like I can add value from a leadership perspective and a defensive perspective. I can still move extremely well defensively.”

Bryant’s age will likely be a concern, as his 38th birthday is just two days after the gold-medal game on August 21st, 2016.

Colangelo said that they will be looking at “all of our players” this season, and Bryant’s retirement announcement “doesn’t have any bearing” on whether he’d be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.

The 12 player team will be selected in June 2016.

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