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Mikaela Shiffrin is fifth American to win World Cup overall title

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Mikaela Shiffrin is all set to become the World Cup overall champion.

The 22-year-old American will bag the biggest annual prize in ski racing after Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, the only other skier mathematically in the running, reportedly said she will not enter Saturday’s slalom at the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., (broadcast schedule here). It will become official when the start list is out later Friday.

Stuhec had a miniscule chance of overtaking Shiffrin, needing to win both Saturday’s slalom and Sunday’s giant slalom and for Shiffrin to finish outside the top 15 in both races. Stuhec does not typically race slaloms.

Shiffrin became the fifth American to take the overall title, awarded since 1967 to the male and female skiers who accumulate the most points across all races in the World Cup season.

She joins Phil Mahre (1981-83), Tamara McKinney (1983), Bode Miller (2005, 2008) and Lindsey Vonn (2008-10, 2012) in bringing the crystal globe back to the U.S.

Shiffrin is also the youngest male or female overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2003.

She clinched with two races left in a 37-race season, but it was wrapped up for all intents and purposes on Feb. 10. On that day, Swiss Lara Gut, the defending World Cup overall champion, tore an ACL in a warm-up at the world championships.

Gut was 180 points behind Shiffrin at the time, significant, but the remaining World Cup schedule favored Gut’s speed events to Shiffrin’s technical events.

With Gut out, Shiffrin cruised to the title by winning three of her next four World Cup races. She’s now at 11 wins this season, most by any man or woman, and could finish with 13 if she bags Saturday’s slalom and Sunday’s giant slalom in Aspen.

Thirteen victories would tie Shiffrin for second all-time in one season by a man or woman. It would also give her 33 career World Cup wins, matching Bode Miller for second all-time among Americans behind Vonn, who has 77.

It has been quite the rise for Shiffrin since she captured gold in Sochi. She became more dominant in slalom, began winning in giant slalom and super combined and is now a podium threat in the scattered super-Gs that she starts.

It all sets up for Shiffrin to go into the Olympic season with the chance to become the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at a single Winter Olympics.

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Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37