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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.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s New Year’s resolution

Vic Wild finds much different welcome at PyeongChang

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — It was a feel-good love story about snowboarders that made Russia smile.

Four years later, Vic Wild and Alena Zavarzina are still married and still riding.

But boy did this get complicated.

Wild, the American-born rider who now competes for Russia, finished out of the medals, same as his wife, at the parallel giant slalom Saturday, closing a sad chapter to a journey that began as a fairy tale but turned into a drama about cheating, doping and figuring out who was to blame.

It was a small part of a much larger story about the strained, scandal-tainted relationship between Russia, the Olympics and the rest of the world.

“For 18 months, the IOC never told me anything,” Wild said after losing in the round-of-16 in a contest taken by Switzerland’s Nevin Galmarini. “No one would tell me if, somehow, some way, I was involved. That definitely put some gray hairs on my head.”

Read the full story at NBCOlympics.com

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

Arianna Fontana
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Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.