Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin wins World Cup slalom under the lights

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Mikaela Shiffrin reinforced her Olympic favorite status by winning her second straight World Cup slalom event and third this season in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday night.

Shiffrin, 18, conquered the course in a two-run time of 1 minute, 45.83 seconds, beating Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter by .83. Another Swede, Maria Pietilae-Holmner, was third.

Shiffrin led by a comfortable .90 after the first run in the early evening.

“The first run I really let it go and gave myself a little bit of a cushion for the second run,” said Shiffrin, now a seven-time World Cup race winner and $59,000 richer. “But second run I had a couple moves where I kind of hit the rut. I was like, ‘No, just stay the course!’ So I’m really psyched.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill and a super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Saturday and Sunday. The last slalom before the Olympics is in Maribor, Slovenia, on Feb. 2, five days before the Opening Ceremony.

“It’s nice to sing my national anthem a couple of races before the Olympics,” Shiffrin said. “Hopefully, I can keep it going.”

Shiffrin’s gold medal hopes wavered in late December, when Austrian Marlies Schild won two straight World Cup slaloms.

The Austrian Schild was fourth after the first run Tuesday and fell in her second run to finish 26th.

Schild, 32, owns the record for most career World Cup slalom wins and won the World Cup season title four times in six years before suffering a major right knee injury in December 2012.

Shiffrin, who lists Schild as an idol, took the reins from Schild and won the World Championship in February.

The American is guaranteed to be leading the World Cup slalom standings going into the Olympics no matter the results in Maribor.

“If I’m a medal contender, then that just means that I’m going to try to contend for a medal,” Shiffrin said. “When my nana tells me that my ski racing is keeping her alive, I think that’s more pressure than any race.”

Flachau Slalom
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:45.83
2. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) 1:46.66
3. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) 1:46.97
4. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:47.23
5. Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT) 1:47.38
6. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 1:47.82
7. Nina Loeseth (NOR) 1:47.98
8. Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 1:47.99
8. Wendy Holdener (AUT) 1:47.99
10. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 1:48.01

Biathlete gives up spot on Olympic Team to twin sister

Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

AP
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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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VIDEO: Nathan Chen makes more history at season opener

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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