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Mikaela Shiffrin pursues World Cup overall title this weekend

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Mikaela Shiffrin can all but wrap up the World Cup overall title this weekend, live on NBC Sports.

The Olympic slalom champion headlines the fields for giant slalom and slalom races at the penultimate World Cup stop in Squaw Valley, Calif., on Friday and Saturday.

Shiffrin’s unparalleled season to date includes nine World Cup wins — most by any man or woman — with six slaloms, two giant slaloms and a super combined.

She leads the standings for the World Cup overall title — the biggest annual prize in ski racing — by 178 points with six total races left. The season ends with the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., next week, near Shiffrin’s Vail home.

Four years ago, Shiffrin had just become the youngest women’s world champion since 1985, taking the slalom at age 17. She followed that up by becoming the youngest Olympic slalom champion — man or woman — in Sochi.

Now, she’s on the verge of going into the Olympic year as the world’s best all-around female skier, the title associated with World Cup overall champion.

The overall title goes to the skier who accumulates the most points across all disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, super combined — over the course of more than 30 races in a season.

Shiffrin rarely starts downhill or super-G, but nobody in the world at the moment is capable of earning podiums in all five disciplines.

This weekend, Shiffrin can all but seize the crystal globe trophy for the overall title. The scoring system awards 100 points to race winners, 80 points to second place and 60 points to third in a descending scale all the way to the 30th-place finisher.

Shiffrin’s closest pursuer, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, struggles in the disciplines on this weekend’s schedule in Squaw Valley.

If Shiffrin and Stuhec repeat their average giant slalom and slalom results, Shiffrin will increase her lead from 178 points to nearly 300 points this weekend. That would be a pretty much insurmountable lead with just four races left the following week in Aspen.

Shiffrin can become the youngest male or female overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic won the second of her three titles at age 21 in 2003.

She would become the fifth American to take the crown after Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

The Olympic season would bring a whole new set of expectations next fall, including this: the possibility of becoming the first U.S. woman to earn three gold medals at a single Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley World Cup Schedule
Friday
Giant Slalom Run 1 — 1 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
Giant Slalom Run 2 — 4 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app

Saturday
Slalom Run 1 — 1 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
Slalom Run 2 — 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app

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Yulia Efimova wags finger as Lilly King rivalry heats up (video)

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The Lilly KingYulia Efimova rivalry is back on, but this time the Russian is wagging her finger.

Efimova missed the 100m breaststroke world record by .01 in the semifinals at the world swimming championships in Budapest on Monday.

Efimova celebrated her time by finger wagging, an homage to King’s famous move in the ready room at the Rio Olympics.  She and King will go head to head in the final as the top two seeds on Tuesday after King won her later semifinal in a personal-best time .17 slower than Efimova.

“I’m always looking at the results from the heat before,” King told media in Budapest, adding that she wasn’t shaved for Monday’s semifinals. “I saw a little finger wag. I saw it. It’s just motivating me more, so that’s OK.”

King, who criticized Efimova’s presence in Rio after serving a doping ban, beat the Russian in the Olympic 100m breaststroke final last year.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1 and was absolved along with other athletes.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last fall, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

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Katinka Hosszu wins 200m IM as swimmer leaves pool mid-race (video)

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Hungarian Katinka Hosszu delivered the gold-medal performance a raucous Budapest crowd hoped for at the world swimming championships.

Canadian Sydney Pickrem, a medal favorite, appeared to get out of the pool after 50 meters. Swimming Canada later said she “took on water” approaching the first wall.

“Unfortunately it inhibited her to the point where she wasn’t able to continue in the race,” a press release said.

Hosszu won her third straight world title in the 200m individual medley, clocking 2:07.00 at the frenzied Danube Arena. The Olympic champion and world-record holder was followed by Japan’s Yui Ohashi (2:07.91) and American Madisyn Cox (2:09.71).

“Just another stepping stone,” said Cox, who finished her University of Texas career this year and made her major international debut in Budapest. “Of course, I want to be better. That time will come.”

Hosszu was the overwhelming favorite, given she held the three fastest times in the world this year going into Monday’s final. The “Iron Lady” became the first woman to win 10 individual world championships medals, a mark that Sarah SjostromKatie Ledecky and Yulia Efimova can surpass later in the meet. Retired Australian Leisel Jones won nine, all in breaststroke.

Hosszu scratched her other event Monday night, the 100m backstroke, one of three events she won at the Rio Olympics. Hosszu could earn medals in the 200m backstroke and 400m individual medley later this week.

Pickrem ranked No. 3 in the world this year and had the third-fastest time in the semifinals behind Hosszu and American Melanie Margalis, who finished fourth.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley Results
Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 2:07.00
Silver: Yui Ohashi (JPN) — 2:07.91
Bronze: Madisyn Cox (USA) — 2:09.71
4. Melanie Margalis (USA) — 2:09.82
5. Runa Imai (JPN) — 2:09.99
6. Kim Seoyeong (KOR) — 2:10.40
7. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (GBR) — 2:10.41
DQ. Sydney Pickrem (CAN)

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