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Watch Mikaela Shiffrin take on new rival this weekend

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Just as the Olympic season is starting, Mikaela Shiffrin faces maybe her toughest challenge yet in the slalom.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion in the discipline, goes into this weekend’s World Cup races in Killington, Vt., having taken second in the last two slaloms behind emerging Slovakian Petra Vlhova.

Sunday’s slalom in Killington, following a giant slalom on Saturday, could determine in the eyes of many the Olympic slalom favorite.

The broadcast schedule:

  • Giant Slalom first run – Saturday, 9:45am (Stream here)
  • Giant Slalom second run – Saturday, 12:30pm (Olympic Channel) (Stream here)
  • Slalom first run – Sunday, 9:45am (Stream here)
  • Slalom first run – Sunday, 1 pm (NBC) (Stream here)

Shiffrin, who is 22 like Vlhova, is the reigning World Cup overall champion, an award that honors the best skier across all disciplines over the course of a season.

It was a milestone in the young racer’s career, but as her all-around skills improved, her grip on her signature slalom is no longer iron clad.

Vlhova beat Shiffrin at the World Cup Finals in March in Aspen, Colo., and at this season’s opening slalom in Finland two weeks ago.

“In all honesty, Petra skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen, said before the Finland race, according to the Denver Post. “Their coaches are always on the hill, videoing Mikaela. I think Petra is going to give Mikaela a real run for her money.”

It marked the first time since December 2013 that another woman won consecutive World Cup slaloms over fields that included Shiffrin. It was Marlies Schild four years ago, just before the Austrian veteran ceded her dominance to Shiffrin going into the Sochi Olympics.

“Mikaela, she’s always fast, but now I am fast,” Vlhova said after her win two weeks ago.

First is Saturday’s giant slalom, where Vlhova is not expected to factor into the podium race.

Shiffrin ranked second in the world in GS last season, continuing a steady rise since placing fifth in Sochi.

Minute Frenchwoman Tessa Worley dominated the GS last season, taking the World Cup and world championships titles, including a win in Killington.

At this season’s opening giant slalom in October, Shiffrin was in second place after the first run but got bumped off her line in the second run and ended up fifth.

Worley ended up second behind 2010 Olympic GS champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany.

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October. Chen is the only undefeated skater this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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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