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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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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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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