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Mikaela Shiffrin wins again, off to best start of anyone since 2012

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Mikaela Shiffrin won for the second straight day and for the fifth time this season, the best start to a World Cup campaign by any woman in four years.

The Olympic slalom champion mastered a giant slalom in Semmering, Austria, on Wednesday, just as she did Tuesday, but this time under far tougher conditions — falling snow and poor visibility.

“It was a big fight; there’s so much snow coming down,” Shiffrin said. “I was like, this isn’t good, it’s got to be slow.”

It wasn’t.

Shiffrin prevailed by .15 of a second over two runs and had the fastest first run by .08. France’s Tessa Worley was second on consecutive days, followed by German Viktoria Rebensburg.

FULL RESULTS | RUN 2 REPLAY

Shiffrin earned her third career World Cup giant slalom victory to go with her 22 slalom wins, all before turning 22 years old. She now leads the World Cup overall standings by 115 points over Swiss Lara Gut through 14 of a scheduled 37 races.

“Two days ago, I was wondering if I would ever win a GS again, and now I have three wins,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin became the first female skier to win five World Cup races in one season before Jan. 1 since Slovenian Tina Maze in 2012.

If Shiffrin wins Thursday’s slalom in Semmering (NBCSports.com/live, NBCSN at 11:30 a.m. ET), she will become the first man or woman to win six World Cup races before the new year since Bode Miller in 2004.

And she will be heavily favored to do so. Shiffrin has won the last six World Cup slaloms and the last 14 slaloms that she has started overall.

As for giant slalom, Shiffrin remains hungry despite the back-to-back success.

“It’s two victories, but in the same place,” she said. “It would be nice to repeat it at a new venue.”

MORE: Bode Miller’s ‘dream of returning’ this season ‘quashed’

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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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics

USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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