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Mikaela Shiffrin: I’m an all-event skier now

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COURCHEVEL, France — There appears little to prevent Mikaela Shiffrin taking over from Lindsey Vonn as the unstoppable force in women’s ski racing.

Shiffrin has a huge lead in defense of her overall World Cup title, and her four wins this season have been among three different disciplines.

The 22-year-old is branching out and feeling confident about it. And with the PyeongChang Olympics coming, that’s very bad news for rivals.

Her Dec. 2 downhill win at Lake Louise was a personal breakthrough and sent a statement: The Olympic and three-time world slalom champion, who has five giant slalom wins, no longer views herself as a technical specialist.

“I’m finding something new, some more speed,” Shiffrin said. “My positioning, my skiing, my tactics, everything’s coming together. I’m certainly not [just] a slalom skier anymore, I consider myself an all-event skier.”

Her two victories at the French Alpine resort of Courchevel this week — in GS and the inaugural parallel slalom — took her to 35 World Cup wins.

Vonn is the female record-holder with 78. The undisputed star for so many years, Vonn also has four overall World Cup titles and doubtless would have had more if not for serious knee injuries.

She is far from finished, either. The 33-year-old came back in style with a super-G win at Val d’Isere on Saturday — her first World Cup victory since January.

But considering Shiffrin is so much younger, and has an expanding repertoire, she is well positioned to become a record-breaker. The number of wins Shiffrin could get — if she stays injury-free — is potentially staggering.

When asked if she can beat Vonn’s mark, Shiffrin takes a long and thoughtful pause.

“If I’m feeling crazy I can think, yeah, maybe if I keep going this way I could get 78 or something. I could get there,” she said. “But as soon as I think about that, my skiing starts getting really bad. It’s fun to dream about these things, but it’s not my first goal.”

Although supremely confident, the slimly built Shiffrin knows that becoming a multi-event specialist puts her best discipline at risk.

“If I ski my best, then I know it’s good enough to win in any event, actually. Even in downhill,” she said. “But it is very, very difficult to stay strong in every event. The better I get with speed, the more my slalom suffers.”

Intriguingly, she could race Vonn in downhill in PyeongChang.

Injury-hit Vonn missed the Sochi Winter Games and is intensely motivated to reclaim the downhill title she won at Vancouver 2010.

Facing Vonn in downhill would be a treat for U.S. fans — and somewhat like Shiffrin agreeing to fight Vonn in her own backyard.

It might be too good to refuse.

“I hadn’t been planning on doing the downhill. For sure, after Lake Louise I’m considering it more,” Shiffrin said. “It’s cool that the tech [slalom and GS] races are first [at the Olympics], so that makes me feel more comfortable with doing the speed races.”

Asked what would happen if she actually beat Vonn in downhill at the Olympics, Shiffrin bursts into loud laughter.

It is not a mocking laugh, but one of incredulity at the idea of toppling arguably the greatest female downhill skier of all time.

Shiffrin then becomes serious again, talking about Vonn with utmost respect, yet her burning ambition is hard to contain.

“If I were able to win a medal in any of the speed events that would be absolutely incredible,” Shiffrin said. “If it was gold, even better.”

She could also face Vonn in super-G. Their first Olympic meeting could be in giant slalom, which Vonn has said she’s targeting, though it is not one of her strong events.

Shiffrin’s workload is unlikely to include the nations’ team event, which features parallel slalom and makes its Olympic debut.

“I’m not planning on it. To take that really seriously we would have to find some time to have the U.S. team training together, and there is no time,” she said. “Even right now, my biggest concern is thinking about racing the downhill as well as super-G and [super] combined.”

“That’s such a full [program] and I don’t know,” she says, wearily contemplating how much it would take out of her. “It’s exhausting.”

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WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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