World Relays

U.S., Jamaica, Kenya split wins at World Relays (video)

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The three leading nations in running shared victories on the first night of the debut of the IAAF World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, on Saturday.

Three-time Olympic medalist Yohan Blake anchored Jamaica to victory in the 4x200m relay, breaking the world record held by a U.S. quartet that included Carl Lewis. The Jamaicans, without Usain Bolt, clocked 1 minute, 18.63 seconds, .05 better than the 20-year-old mark.

The U.S. botched its second baton exchange, anchor Wallace Spearmon crossed the finish line third, and the Americans were then disqualified, surely for that second exchange being out of the zone.

The U.S. got its only win in the night’s finale, the women’s 4x100m. A team of Tianna Madison, Alexandria Anderson, Jeneba Tarmoh and Lekeisha Lawson clocked 41.88 seconds, .4 of a second ahead of Jamaica.

Tarmoh, who tied for third in the 100m at the 2012 Olympic Trials and pulled out of a potential runoff, gave the U.S. a lead going into the final leg. That lead became insurmountable when Jamaica had a poor final handoff. The Jamaicans did not use Olympic and world 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the relay. Fraser-Pryce pulled out of a meet in Shanghai on Sunday with a shin injury, according to Agence France-Presse.

Kenya won the meet’s first two finals, the men’s 4x800m and the women’s 4x1500m, the latter shattering the world record by 32 seconds.

The men prevailed despite being without Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha, the Olympic bronze medalist and its fastest 800m runner this year. The Kenyans clocked 7:08.40, nearly six seconds off the world record (set by Kenya in 2006).

Poland passed U.S. anchor Duane Solomon (fourth at the Olympics) for second place. Kenya held nearly a five-second lead going into the final leg. Poland and the U.S. almost erased it all, finishing within six tenths of the champions. The U.S. was missing world bronze medalist Nick Symmonds, who will also sit out next week’s Pre Classic with a knee injury.

The Kenyan women smashed the 4x1500m world record, set by Kenya in April, clocking 16:33.58 with world 1500m bronze medalist Hellen Obiri on anchor. The U.S. took second in 16:55.33, also better than the previous world record. The Americans lost any hope of challenging Kenya with a fall on the first baton exchange.

The U.S. advanced into both 4x400m finals Sunday. Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross and triple jump champion Christian Taylor led the quartets in preliminary heats Saturday.

The women’s top competition will be Jamaica and Great Britain since Russia, which won the 2013 World Championship, did not start Saturday. The U.S. men, which could add Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt for the final, figure to be challenged by the Olympic 4x400m champion Bahamas on Sunday.

The World Relays conclude with the men’s and women’s 4x400m, men’s 4x1500m, women’s 4x800m, women’s 4x200m and men’s 4x100m finals on Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

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High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

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