Mikaela Shiffrin clinches fourth World Cup slalom season title

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Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her fourth World Cup slalom season title before she left the gate for Saturday’s race. With that pressure off, Shiffrin went on to win for the 11th time in 23 starts this season.

Shiffrin prevailed by 1.03 seconds after two slalom runs in Squaw Valley, Calif., which is hosting its first World Cup races since 1969. Czech Sarka Strachova was second, followed by Austrian Bernadette Schild.

Swiss Wendy Holdener was fastest in the first run by .02 over Shiffrin, and led Shiffrin by .12 at the last split before the finish. But Holdener fell in the final few gates.

“In a way, I feel like she gave up the win,” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t necessarily take the win from her.”

Shiffrin made a mistake near the top of the course but gained considerable time on Strachova in the final several gates. Even if Holdener stayed upright, Shiffrin likely would have won.

“I’m not proud of my skiing,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN. “It was very scrappy, and I’m proud of the fight, but it’s not my best skiing. But to fight my way to the finish and come away with another win today, sometimes it’s better to do that than to feel like I skied unbelievable.”

Full Results | Run 2 Replay

Shiffrin’s closest standings rival, Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, fell in her first of two slalom runs, which eliminated her already slim chances of overtaking Shiffrin in the standings by the end of the season next weekend.

Shiffrin matched legends Alberto TombaMarlies Schild and Marcel Hirscher with four World Cup slalom season titles. Three skiers have captured more — Ingemar Stenmark (eight), Vreni Schneider (six) and Erika Hess (five).

Shiffrin now leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, by a nearly insurmountable 378 points with four races left. Winners receive 100 points per race.

Shiffrin can mathematically clinch her first overall title next week at the World Cup Finals, which begin with a downhill on Wednesday in Aspen, Colo.

Already the youngest Olympic slalom champion ever, Shiffrin is set to become the youngest male or female World Cup overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2003. She turns 22 years old on Monday.

“I’m very close to having the overall, but at the same time it makes me feel like I have to earn it even more,” Shiffrin said, noting that her top rival early in the season, 2016 overall champion Lara Gut, is out with a season-ending knee injury. “It’s something that I feel like I haven’t quite earned yet, even though I have it almost on paper. It adds a little bit of pressure almost.”

Four Americans have won the overall title — Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

Shiffrin is now at 31 World Cup wins, ranking third all-time among Americans behind Vonn (77 wins) and Miller (33 wins).

Her 11 wins this season tie for the second-most by an American in one season, behind Vonn’s 12 in 2012.

With one giant slalom and one slalom left next week, she could reach 13 victories, which would tie for second all-time among all male and female skiers in one season.

Shiffrin’s continued slalom domination and breakthrough giant slalom and super combined wins this season make her a threat next year to become the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at one Winter Olympics in any sport.

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong, Ryan Pivirotto earn last three spots on U.S. Olympic short track team

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong and Ryan Pivirotto grabbed the last three spots on the U.S. Olympic short track team on Sunday as competition wrapped up at the Olympic Trials.

Kooreman survived a fall in the last women’s race of the Trials, the 1000m #2 A Final, to finish second overall in the 1000m and earn a spot on the team that will race on Olympic ice in PyeongChang.

Kooreman, a 2014 Olympian, joined Lana Gehring, a 2010 Olympian and Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who will make her Olympic debut in 2018, on the U.S. Olympic women’s short track team.

At 34 years old, Kooreman will be the veteran of the team. Four years ago, she swept all three events at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials and then finished fourth in the 1000m at the Sochi Winter Games.

She struggled to breakthrough to the top spots at this Trials; she finished third overall in both the 1500m on Friday and 500m on Saturday.

Left off the team is Katherine-Reutter Adamek, a two-time Olympic medalist from Vancouver who retired in 2013 due to injuries before coming back in 2016 in hopes of making another Olympic team. Reutter is the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1000m, but her Olympic aspirations ended when she didn’t qualify for the 1000m #2 A Final today.

Hong, a native of South Korea who moved to the U.S. at 4 years old, finished fourth in the men’s 1000m #2 A Final, and fourth overall. Pivirotto didn’t qualify for that A Final, and had to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic fate was decided. Pivirotto clinched the fifth and final spot by finishing fifth overall across all distances.

The overall winner on the men’s side was John-Henry Krueger, who was nearly undefeated over the three days of racing and won four of six A Finals: both 1000m finals today, the 500m #2 final yesterday and the 1500m #2 final on Friday. 22-year-old Krueger was expected to make the Olympic team four years ago, but had to withdraw from some races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was diagnosed with swine flu.

J.R. Celski, the only member of the team with prior Olympic experience, had an uncharacteristically rough Trials with four falls in three days. However his results when he did stay on his skates were good enough to put him into second-place overall. The third overall men’s skater was Aaron Tran, who also make the Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic short track team:

Lana Gehring
Maame Biney
Jessica Kooreman
John-Henry Krueger
J.R. Celski
Aaron Tran
Thomas Hong
Ryan Pivirotto

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MORE: J.R. Celski, Maame Biney join U.S. Olympic short track team