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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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Ghana Olympic skeleton slider’s helmet: rabbit escapes lion

Ron Leblanc
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It’s called The Rabbit Theory.

That’s what Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana’s first Olympic skeleton slider, calls his new helmet.

The one that he will wear in PyeongChang as the second athlete from his nation to compete at a Winter Games.

Frimpong, 31, tells an incredible story.

He said he was raised by his grandmother Minka in a one-room home with nine other children before joining his mom in the Netherlands at age 8 as an illegal immigrant and eventually moving to Utah.

Frimpong’s full story is here.

Frimpong’s life — before he converted from sprinting to bobsled to skeleton — was chronicled in a 2010 Dutch documentary tilted “Theorie van het Konjin” (translation: The Rabbit Theory).

“My former sprint coach Sammy Monsels talks about the analogy of a rabbit in a cage, ready to escape from a lion,” Frimpong said in an email Monday. “I am that rabbit, and I have escaped the lions [of my past]. I am no longer being eaten by all the things around my life.”

The helmet that he will wear sliding head-first down an icy chute in South Korea in three weeks draws attention to it.

The design is of a lion’s head with mouth agape and a pair of rabbits coming out. Plus the colors of the Ghanaian flag.

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USA Gymnastics leaders resign as more victims speak

USA Gymnastics
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — USA Gymnastics announced the resignations of three key leaders Monday while more women and girls told a judge about being sexually assaulted at the hands of a sports doctor who spent years with Olympic gymnasts and other female athletes.

The resignations of chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley were announced in Indianapolis while a judge in Lansing heard a fifth day of statements from women and girls who said they were molested by Larry Nassar.

“We support their decisions to resign at this time,” said Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, which is the national governing body for gymnastics. “We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization.”

The board positions are volunteer and unpaid, but the resignations add to the months of turmoil. Steve Penny quit as president last March after critics said USA Gymnastics failed to protect gymnasts from abusive coaches and Nassar.

“New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement Monday. “USA Gymnastics needs to focus on supporting the brave survivors.”

USA Gymnastics last week said it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the Huntsville, Texas, home of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela. Some Olympians said they were assaulted there by Nassar.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Nassar’s sentencing hearing continued Monday, raising the number of girls and women who have spoken to nearly 100 since last week.

“I want to you know that your face and the face of all of the sister survivor warriors — the whole army of you — I’ve heard your words,” Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after a woman spoke in her Michigan courtroom. “Your sister survivors and you are going through incomprehensible lengths, emotions and soul-searching to put your words together, to publicly stop (the) defendant, to publicly stop predators, to make people listen.”

Nassar, 54, has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.

Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.

“Larry, how many of us are there? Do you even know?” asked Clasina Syrboby, as she fought back tears while speaking for more than 20 minutes Monday. “You preyed on me, on us. You saw a way to take advantage of your position — the almighty and trusted gymnastics doctor. Shame on you Larry. Shame on you.

She and other victims also continued their criticism of Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar when initial complaints were made.

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