Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin struggles in Courchevel slalom; Marlies Schild wins

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Mikaela Shiffrin has strong competition in the slalom after all.

The American teen posted her lowest World Cup slalom finish in 10 races, while one of her idols won for the first time since returning from major injury in Courchevel, France, on Tuesday.

Shiffrin, 18 and the reigning world and World Cup champion in the event, finished 12th in a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.28 seconds.

“Mikaela wasn’t able to get the battery charged and that happens,” U.S. coach Roland Pfeifer said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “She really had a bad day today and that’s probably not the last time that’s going to happen. We just need to accept that the other athletes were skiing better today.”

Shiffrin was coming off skiing out of a giant slalom Sunday. On Tuesday, her first of two runs put her in seventh place, .90 of a second behind. That made it unlikely Shiffrin could win her third straight World Cup slalom dating to last season.

“Not my best run,” Shiffrin said of her first run, according to The Associated Press. “I didn’t have a great feeling. I was just a bit nervous … Sometimes I don’t get that great feeling I want in the morning. I thought I had that today but it didn’t go how I want.”

Marlies Schild, who was the world’s best slalom skier before tearing right knee ligaments on Dec. 20, 2012, made her first World Cup podium since returning from the injury. The Austrian dominated like the Schild of old, coming from third place after the first run to win by .33 over Swede Frida Hansdotter.

“I never expected it before the race because I had no rhythm, no race rhythm,” said Schild, who at 32 became the oldest World Cup slalom winner ever, according to Infostrada. “My last race [win] was a long time ago [Feb. 11, 2012], over one year. It’s amazing.”

Schild’s younger sister, Bernadette, was third, her second career World Cup podium. It’s the first time sisters have been on the same World Cup podium since Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Susanne Riesch on Dec. 13, 2009, according to Infostrada.

“I’m so happy for her,” Marlies Schild said of Bernadette, who is nine years younger. “Of course I’m happy that I’m in front of her.”

Schild matched Swiss legend Vreni Schneider for the most career World Cup slalom victories with her 34th. She won Olympic silver in 2010, World Championships gold in 2011 and four of six World Cup titles from 2007 through 2012.

She came back from her knee injury for the World Championships in February and finished ninth behind Shiffrin. Schild won her first World Cup slalom on Shiffrin’s 9th birthday, March 13, 2004.

When Shiffrin made her first World Cup podium in Lienz, Austria, on Dec. 29, 2011, she blurted out to the winner Schild.

“Oh my gosh, I’m such a big fan,” Shiffrin said, according to The New York Times. “Well, I’m also on the podium with you. But I’m still a big fan.”

Shiffrin’s medal chances in her secondary event, the giant slalom, nonetheless improved, but not for the reason she would have liked.

Reigning world champion Tessa Worley suffered a torn ACL in a crash in the first run. She was taken down the slope on a stretcher and to a hospital.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill and a giant slalom in Val d’Isere, France, on Saturday and Sunday.

Lindsey Vonn is expected to enter the downhill, her fourth event since returning from a major knee injury, and possibly her final race before the Olympics.

Courchevel Slalom
1. Marlies Schild (AUT) 1:45.17
2. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) 1:45.50
3. Bernadette Schild (AUT) 1:46.39
4. Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 1:46.60
5. Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT) 1:46.73
6. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 1:46.81
7. Carmen Thalmann (AUT) 1:46.89
8. Nina Loeseth (NOR) 1:46.95
9. Wendy Holdener (SUI) 1:47.05
10. Nathalie Eklund (SWE) 1:47.20
12. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:47.28
21. Resi Stiegler (USA) 1:48.81

Camel carries Olympic flame during Sochi torch relay

South, North Korea agree to form joint Olympic team, march together

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South Korea said the rival Koreas agreed to form their first joint Olympic team and have their athletes march together during the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the Koreas reached the agreement during talks Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom.

It said athletes from the two Koreas will march together under a “unification flag” depicting their peninsula during the Opening Ceremony and will field a single women’s hockey team.

The measures require approval by the International Olympic Committee. The South Korean ministry says the two Koreas will consult with the IOC this weekend.

South Korea women’s hockey coach Sarah Murray said a joint team would be a distraction and present challenges, according to Yonhap News Agency.

“I think there is damage to our players,” the Canadian said Tuesday, according to Yonhap. “It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.

“This is another distraction, and we have to worry about things we can control. We can’t control this situation.

“Adding somebody so close to the Olympics is a little bit dangerous just for team chemistry because the girls have been together for so long. Teaching systems and different things … I’d have about a month to teach these (new) players the way our team plays. That makes me a little nervous.

“I hope that I am not being pressured to play (North Koreans). I am hoping we can just play the way we play and not have the influence of, ‘I need to play this player.’ I just want the best players to play. If you play your best, then you earn your ice time. Whether you’re South Korean or North Korean, they have to earn their place.”

The two Koreas marched together behind a unification flag at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

North Korea boycotted the previous Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

North Korea has no qualified athletes for the PyeongChang Olympics, but the IOC can invite athletes and could do so after this weekend’s meeting.

A pairs figure skating team qualified an Olympic quota spot for North Korea last fall, but the spot was given up after North Korea’s Olympic Committee did not accept the spot before a deadline.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Larry Nassar hears testimony at sentencing: ‘You are a repulsive liar’

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — One after one, gymnasts and other victims of a disgraced former sports doctor stepped forward in a Michigan courtroom Tuesday to recount the sexual abuse and emotional trauma Larry Nassar inflicted on them as children — one with the warning that “little girls don’t stay little forever.”

Nearly 100 women and girls planned to speak or have their statements read during an extraordinary four-day sentencing hearing.

Many of them cried as they gave the initial testimonies Tuesday.

Some requested that their identities not be made public. The judge consoled the victims and said they should not blame themselves.

“I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar,” one victim, Kyle Stephens, said to the 54-year-old Nassar who bowed his head with his eyes closed or looked away as she and others spoke.

Stephens, the first to speak, said Nassar repeatedly abused her from age 6 until age 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, near Lansing.

She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other things. She said Nassar later denied it, and her parents believed him.

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” Stephens said. “They grow into strong women that … destroy your world.”

Nassar has pleaded guilty to molesting females with his hands at his Michigan State University office, his home and a Lansing-area gymnastics club.

He also worked for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Another statement came from Donna Markham, who told of how her daughter Chelsey killed herself in 2009, years after Nassar sexually abused her during a medical examination.

“It all started with him,” she said, describing her daughter’s downward spiral into drug abuse.

Victims described experiencing “searing pain” during the assaults and having feelings of shame and embarrassment.

They said it had changed their life trajectories — affecting relationships, causing them to be distrustful and leading to depression, suicidal thoughts and anger and anxiety on whether they should have spoken up sooner.

“He touched the most innocent places on my body,” said 17-year-old Jessica Thomashaw, recounting how she was sexually assaulted at ages 9 and 12. “I couldn’t be just a normal girl anymore, and I forever lost a big piece of my childhood due to his abuse.”

Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who is expected to order a sentence Friday, said the system had failed them.

“You shouldn’t be angry with yourself,” she told a 31-year-old victim, who said she was assaulted almost 20 years ago. “You went to him for pain and healing, and you didn’t know. No one faults you or any other victim for that. You were a child.”

The Michigan attorney general’s office is seeking 40 to 125 years in prison for the 54-year-old Nassar.

The maximum represents a year for each of the 125 girls and women who filed reports of abuse with campus police. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles on Monday said she was among the athletes sexually abused by Nassar.

Another gold medalist, Aly Raisman, tweeted Monday that she would not attend the sentencing “because it is too traumatic for me. My impact letter will be read in court in front of Nassar. I support the brave survivors. We are all in this together.”

Olympians McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas also have said they were among Nassar’s victims as teens.

In November, he admitted to digitally penetrating 10 girls, mostly under the guise of treatment, between 1998 and 2015.

As part of plea deals in two adjacent Michigan counties, he said his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent.

Nassar is scheduled to be sentenced in Eaton County in two weeks.