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Mikaela Shiffrin chases higher goals as second Olympics approach

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After the finale of the 73-race World Cup Alpine skiing season in March, the winners of the men’s and women’s overall titles were brought together. They were handed crystal globe trophies and directed to pose for the cameras.

Those winners were Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who actually won crystal globes for the overall, giant slalom and slalom disciplines. And Mikaela Shiffrin, who took two crystal globes, for the overall and slalom.

It made for a very crowded photo shoot.

“He’s trying to juggle three different trophies,” Shiffrin (who actually learned to juggle and unicycle in elementary school) said in the spring, leading into this joke: “There’s nothing like standing next to Marcel Hirscher to make me feel like I didn’t do enough this season.”

She did plenty.

The Coloradoan clinched her first overall crown — the biggest annual prize in ski racing — four days after her 22nd birthday, making her the youngest champion in 14 years.

She became the fifth American to take the overall title since it was introduced in 1967 and won 11 of her 25 World Cup starts.

But Shiffrin always wants more.

In Sochi, in the early morning, bleary hours after becoming the youngest Olympic slalom champion, Shiffrin blurted out in a press conference that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018.

She’s not retracting those words now. Five gold medals are certainly possible, though extremely improbable. The most gold medals any Alpine skier has won at a single Olympics is three.

“I believe in my ability, and I have a team around me that also believes in my ability, which allows me to stand behind that statement even if it was almost ignorant in a way,” Shiffrin said at a U.S. Olympic Committee media summit in Park City, Utah, two weeks ago.

The believers also included President Barack Obama, who embarrassed the skier by mentioning the five golds comment in front of more than 100 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes at the Team USA White House visit after the Sochi Winter Games.

“It’s not all supposed to be saying, like, undervaluing what the other athletes are able to do, because there are a couple of other athletes out there who also could win in five events,” Shiffrin said.

Realistically, Shiffrin does not see five individual golds in PyeongChang. She’s targeting three, maybe four events.

Slalom, where she can become the first man or woman to repeat as Olympic champion.

Giant slalom, where Shiffrin finished fifth in Sochi and improved to a silver medal at the world championships last February.

Super combined. Shiffrin did not race the combined in Sochi (one downhill run plus one slalom run) but won her first World Cup combined last season (albeit a super-G, rather than downhill, and slalom).

Super-G is a maybe. Shiffrin has never won a super-G but will race it in PyeongChang if she can make the four-woman U.S. team and feels comfortable.

Downhill is unlikely. Shiffrin raced her first two World Cup downhills last season but does not consider herself a speed racer. Plus, the U.S. team is loaded with accomplished women in the event — Lindsey VonnJulia MancusoLaurenne RossJackie Wiles and Stacey Cook. Only four starting spots are available.

“If I can compete in four events, it’s because I think I have shot to win a medal in four events,” Shiffrin said in Park City. “Five might be biting off too much even though I did go on record saying I want five gold medals, I want the world and the king of the universe and all those things last Olympics.”

The focus first is on the World Cup, which begins with the traditional season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, two weeks from Saturday.

It will be a key indicator for one of Shiffrin’s next short-term goals — to become best in the world in giant slalom. Last season, only Tessa Worley of France was better than Shiffrin.

If she can wrestle the crown away from Worley this fall and winter, and retain her slalom and overall titles, Shiffrin will be the one juggling three crystal globes at photo shoots.

Those World Cup trophies, earned through five months of results, are better indicators of superiority than Olympic medals. They’re also several pounds heavier.

“The Olympic gold, it’s a really big event, but that race in it of itself, one gold medal, just means the same thing as a World Cup [race] win,” Shiffrin said in the spring. “You’re the best for that day. And then the next day that could change.”

Shiffrin could become the first woman since Swede Anja Paerson in 2004 to win the overall, giant slalom and slalom World Cup titles in one year. If she achieves that, it might be on to the next goal.

“Right now my impossible is winning races in every event in a single season,” she said in the spring.

Four skiers have done that — wins in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and combined in one season — Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze.

“I’m chasing that,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get there.”

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s best season also brought the most anxiety

Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson makes another Olympics

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Jamie Anderson will be headed to the 2018 Olympics to defend her gold medal, and she’s hoping to bring some big tricks with her.

By finishing in second place, best among U.S. slopestyle riders, at Dew Tour Breckenridge, Anderson has confirmed her nomination to the U.S. Olympic snowboard team for both slopestyle and big air.

The Breckenridge event served as the third of five selection events for the slopestyle and big air team.

On her second and third runs, Anderson attempted to up the ante by adding a cab double underflip — one of the most progressive tricks in women’s slopestyle snowboarding right now.

She washed out on both attempts but was able to finish on the podium based on the strength of her first run.

The cab double underflip is a new trick for Anderson this season. She learned it earlier this year and then landed it in a contest for the first time back in August.

It’s also a trick that U.S. teammate Julia Marino and Austria’s Anna Gasser had dialed in last season when they beat Anderson at several contests.

“When I was asked about double corks three years ago, I think I said there was no way in hell I ever want to do double corks,” Anderson said. “And then, with a lot of the other girls slowly getting their double corks together, I started to shift my mindset and realize that we also are capable of doing these tricks.”

MORE: Breckenridge women’s slopestyle results

So far, she’s only landed the trick a handful of times. And in the process of learning it, she’s endured some rough crashes that have upped the fear factor of the trick for her.

“I still feel pretty not-that-comfortable going upside-down twice, but it’s fun and it’s starting to click a little bit more,” she said.

Defending her slopestyle gold medal in PyeongChang will be no easy task for Anderson.

Gasser has been dominant over the last year thanks in part to her mastery of the cab double underflip, and Canada’s Spencer O’Brien has put her name in the mix as well after taking the victory in Breckenridge.

Anderson will also have a chance to compete in big air in PyeongChang, though her strongest results have historically come in slopestyle.

Hailey Langland (fourth place) and Marino (sixth place) finished second and third among Americans in Breckenridge.

Both will be expected to secure spots on the team at one of the next two selection events. A fourth spot on the team could be awarded at the discretion of the coaches.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through three of five events)
1. Red Gerard — 1,400*
2. Chris Corning — 1,200*
3. Chandler Hunt — 1,160*
4. Kyle Mack — 1,000*
5. Judd Henkes — 1000

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,600*
2. Hailey Langland — 1,600*
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,050
5. Ty Walker — 1,000
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

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Breckenridge Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday
Men’s Ski Halfpipe — 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Women’s Ski Halfpipe — 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 4:15-5 p.m.

Saturday
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 11-11:45 a.m.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 12:15-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Ski Slopestyle — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Ski Slopestyle — 4:15-5 p.m.

Lindsey Vonn wins 78th World Cup race (video)

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Lindsey Vonn‘s latest comeback victory, one that reinvigorated her Olympic medal hopes, came at the venue where her Olympic bid died four years ago.

Vonn overcame early season back and knee troubles to win her 78th World Cup race — and first in nearly 11 months — a super-G in Val d’Isere, France on Saturday. NBCSN will air coverage at 5 p.m. ET.

“I guess I’m not a washed-up old hag,” Vonn said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I think I proved myself, and karma definitely comes back around. I’ve got some good karma coming my way.”

She prevailed by .31 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia and .39 over Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel. Vonn has won World Cups here six times before, earning cows as prizes.

Vonn put in a scare, nearly skiing out at the bottom of the course, but let out her usual victory screams in the finish area and grabbed a TV camera, repeating, “Yes!”

Full Results

Vonn is now eight victories shy of the record she covets — retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 career World Cup wins. She has said she hopes to break the record by the end of next season, after which she may retire.

First, her Olympic return in PyeongChang, four years after missing Sochi. The final straw came at this French resort in December 2013, where Vonn skied out with MCL and joint damage on top of a previous ACL tear.

Vonn’s PyeongChang medal hopes rode a roller coaster the last year.

A broken arm in a Nov. 10, 2016 crash. A win in her second race back in January, plus podiums at the world championships and at the Olympic venue in February and March.

Then a crash and a fall in two of her first three speed races this season. And last Saturday’s back injury and the images of being helped to walk with supporting poles in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

She withdrew from Sunday’s race — which was eventually canceled due to weather — flew to Austria and received therapy.

“It was mentally challenging to overcome that and be able to trust myself and push myself, even though I’m maybe not moving as well as I normally do,” Vonn said, adding that her back loosened up Saturday after the first few gates. “That’s been the biggest thing the last few weeks is just keep going, keep fighting, keep trying, keep picking yourself back up.

“I knew that the results would come eventually, but the important thing was just to continue to be tough.”

Vonn’s dad was waiting for her in his first visit to Val d’Isere.

“It was really cute when he was crying in the finish,” she said.

There was reason to doubt Vonn at age 33, given her extensive injury history. Only one woman has won a World Cup race at a more advanced age — Austrian Elisabeth Goergl in 2014.

Now, she has two months to stay healthy before the Olympic speed races, where she is a medal favorite in the downhill and super-G.

“I’m back on track,” she said. “[This win] proves what I already knew, that my skiing is good.”

First up is another World Cup super-G in Val d’Isere on Sunday (4:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin is skipping this weekend’s races to prepare for upcoming slaloms and giant slaloms.

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MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule

Val d’Isere Super-G
1. Lindsey Vonn (USA) — 1:04.86
2. Sofia Goggia (ITA) — +.31
3. Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) — +.39
8. Laurenne Ross (USA) — +.97
22. Alice McKennis (USA) — +1.62
24. Alice Merryweather (USA) — +2.03
34. Stacey Cook (USA) — +2.63
38. Breezy Johnson (USA) — +2.86
45. Julia Mancuso (USA) — +5.56
DNF. Jackie Wiles (USA)