Mikaela Shiffrin three-peats in world championships slalom

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With the largest margin of victory in 47 years, Mikaela Shiffrin became the first woman in 78 years to win three straight world titles in the slalom.

The 21-year-old boosted her bid next year to become the first skier of either gender to repeat as Olympic slalom champion.

Shiffrin prevailed by a monstrous 1.64 seconds combining two runs over Swiss Wendy Holdener in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Saturday. Swede Frida Hansdotter earned bronze.

Shiffrin doubled over in disbelief looking toward the scoreboard after crossing the finish line, jaw agape, before covering her mouth with her glove. Then she turned toward the crowd and screamed while raising her arms three times.

“I didn’t see my time until I got all the way through and I knew I had a good run, but I didn’t know it was that good until I saw the time,” Shiffrin said, according to the International Ski Federation. “Three [gold] medals is great, but today is really special today for me because I finally skied this the way I wanted to, and that’s what means a lot to me today.”

The 1.64-second margin was the largest in any women’s event at worlds since 1970, according to ski-db.com.

“Oh my god,” were Shiffrin’s first words picked up by finish-area microphones, before she congratulated Holdener on her super combined title the previous week.

She had the fastest first run by .38 and the fastest second run by .85.

“There was no beating Mikaela today,” Holdener said.

FULL RESULTS | RACE REPLAY

NBC will air women’s slalom coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The world championships conclude with the men’s slalom Sunday (3:45 and 7 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

The only other skiers to earn three world titles in the slalom were Swede Ingemar Stenmark (1978-82, with one of those doubling as the Olympics) and German Christel Cranz, who earned five crowns from 1934 through 1939.

Earlier at worlds, Shiffrin earned her first major giant slalom medal, a silver behind Frenchwoman Tessa Worley on Thursday.

Shiffrin only entered those two events in St. Moritz, but she could race all five individual events at the PyeongChang Olympics. Three years ago, Shiffrin memorably (regrettably) blurted out in an early-morning, dreary-eyed press conference after winning her Olympic slalom title that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018.

She has since slowly picked up the speed events of super-G and downhill. Shiffrin was fourth in her most recent World Cup super-G, but has only raced two World Cup downhills with a best finish of 13th.

She will return to the World Cup circuit next week, en route to becoming the third U.S. woman to claim the overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Tamara McKinney and Lindsey Vonn are the others,

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Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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MORE: Dawn Staley to coach U.S. women at Tokyo 2020

Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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