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Mikaela Shiffrin’s streak ends with first DNF in 4 years

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin‘s seven-race winning streak in women’s World Cup slaloms came to end Tuesday, leaving the American one short of the record for most consecutive victories in the discipline.

But the Olympic champion was quick to consider the positives.

“I was never thinking about the streak in the beginning until people started talking about it,” Shiffrin said shortly after straddling a gate about 25 seconds into her first run. “To be honest it is a bit of a relief because nobody is going to talk about it anymore.”

It was the first time in more than four years that Shiffrin failed to finish a slalom race. Her previous DNF came in Semmering, Austria, in December 2012, one week after she had earned her first of 26 career victories.

With a win Tuesday, Shiffrin would have matched the best mark set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1988-89 and Croatian skier Janica Kostelic in 2000-01.

In total, Shiffrin had won the previous 12 slaloms she competed in, but missed five races because of a knee injury last season.

Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzolova won by .24 over two runs over countrywoman Petra Vlhova. Czech Sarka Strachova was third. Velez Zuzulova, 32, became the second-oldest woman to win a World Cup slalom after the great Marlies Schild.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Resi Stiegler was seventh, her second-best World Cup result since 2007. Full results are here.

“It is what it is. Sometimes you don’t ski exactly the way you want to,” Shiffrin said. “I was trying to go forward but I got a little bit tentative in some sections and straddled.”

Never showing much interest in chasing records, Shiffrin still felt sorry about her early exit — though not for herself.

“It’s huge for U.S. ski racing to have somebody who has something like a big streak going on. People start to gain interest,” Shiffrin said. “But for me, I am not doing this for those records. I am doing this for myself. I try to find peace in my own heart. I am on my way there.”

Many of the top slalom skiers struggled on the Sljeme hill. Four out of the first eight starters failed to complete their runs as Swiss duo Wendy Holdener and Michelle Gisin also skied out, as did Nina Loeseth of Norway.

Shiffrin was 0.07 seconds off Velez Zuzulova’s leading time when the mishap occurred.

“Straddling is always your own mistake,” the American said. “Maybe something about the surface, a little bump here and there caught your edge. But in general, I feel like if I am skiing well, there is absolutely no reason I would have straddled. I only have myself to blame. Even with bumpy snow or a little bit of weird sunlight, it is my fault.”

The result won’t affect Shiffrin’s lead in the overall World Cup standings because her closest competitor, defending champion Lara Gut, usually sits out slaloms. Shiffrin leads the Swiss skier by 215 points.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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