Mikaela Shiffrin wins first downhill; Lindsey Vonn 12th (video)

Leave a comment

Mikaela Shiffrin owned Lake Lindsey on Saturday.

Shiffrin won her first World Cup downhill in her fourth career start in the discipline, while a sore Lindsey Vonn was 12th in Lake Louise, Alberta.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion racing her least comfortable discipline, clocked 1:27.55 and won by .13 over German Viktoria Rebensburg.

“I’m not under the impression that, like, I can just go in and win downhills now,” said Shiffrin, adding that she plans to skip the next two World Cup downhills and the Olympic downhill. “Maybe on courses where I have a little experience and if I have some luck with the lighting.”

Vonn, who owns a record 18 wins at Lake Louise (leading fans to name it after her), was .93 behind, one day after crashing en route to a possible 78th World Cup win. She shrugged after crossing the finish line.

“I had a hard time trusting my [right] knee today,” Vonn, whose right knee surgeries forced her to miss the 2014 Olympics, said, according to media in Lake Louise. “It’s definitely pretty swollen and wasn’t very happy with me. I’ll go ice it now, and hopefully it settles down a little bit more.”

Full results are here.

The race start was pushed back 75 minutes after a power outage stranded skiers on the chair lift for about 45 minutes (including Shiffrin and Vonn). The start was also moved down, which Shiffrin believed played to her advantage.

The victory wasn’t a complete shock.

That’s largely because the 22-year-old was third in Friday’s downhill at the same venue, her first podium finish in the discipline.

“I felt Lake Louise was a really good opportunity for me just because I have some experience on the track,” said Shiffrin, who is racing at the Canadian resort for a third straight season. “I wasn’t planning to win, but I was planning to come here and do my best, see what happened.”

Shiffrin has 33 World Cup victories — 27 in slalom, four in giant slalom and one each in super combined and downhill.

She is an Olympic gold favorite in slalom, a medal favorite in giant slalom and would be a contender in downhill, super-G and super combined. One Alpine skier captured four medals at one Olympics — Croatia’s Janica Kostelic in 2002.

But Shiffrin said after Saturday’s win that she probably will not race the Olympic downhill in three months. Racing all five individual events at the Olympics might be “a little ambitious.”

She doesn’t plan on racing either of the next two World Cup downhills (Dec. 16 in France and Jan. 13 in Austria). The focus remains on her favored slalom and giant slalom.

“We’ll just play it by ear,” she said of racing more downhills later in the season (all four of her World Cup downhill starts have come at Lake Louise). “I have a good balance. It’s sort of like dangling candy in front of a baby when I feel like I have a chance to make real waves in speed [events].”

Shiffrin’s stock can rise higher with a strong finish in Sunday’s super-G at Lake Louise (1 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA). Shiffrin can become the seventh woman to notch World Cup wins in every discipline (Vonn has done this).

Shiffrin openly expresses hesitation about racing the fastest and riskiest discipline of downhill.

She flirted with danger early in Saturday’s run, bobbling her outside ski in an area where teammate Breezy Johnson later crashed.

“I took some risk,” Shiffrin said. “I had a pretty close, almost run-in with the fence.”

She recovered to become the first U.S. woman not named Vonn to win a World Cup speed race (downhill or super-G) in more than four years.

In that span, Vonn won 18 speed races.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule

Lake Louise Downhill
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 1:27.55
2. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) — +.13
3. Michelle Gisin (SUI) — +.17
6. Stacey Cook (USA) — +.61
12. Lindsey Vonn (USA) — +.93
23. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) — +1.45
35. Alice McKennis (USA) — +2.02
37. Alice Merryweather (USA) — +2.20
DNF. Breezy Johnson (USA)

Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

AP
Leave a comment

Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Full Olympic hockey schedule

Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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 male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule