Tearful Mikaela Shiffrin has rare fall in World Cup race (video)

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SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin doesn’t need to look at social media to see what people are saying about her.

After failing to finish two straight races with the Olympics rapidly approaching, the overall World Cup leader knows what her critics are thinking.

Shiffrin fell in the first run of Tuesday’s giant slalom, later won by German Viktoria Rebensburg. Full results here.

“I can see it in my mind, ‘Mikaela Shiffrin faltering before the Olympics.’ And, ‘The streak is coming to an end,'” Shiffrin said Tuesday. “But I’m not really worried about what other people think. That’s a different place that I’m in this year compared to last year.

“I’m not invincible. I’m fighting every single race and you start to hear people say, ‘It’s boring because Mikaela is winning everything.’ Well, it’s not boring today,” Shiffrin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I am in a good place mentally and I don’t feel like today or the race in Cortina (Sunday’s super-G, in which she missed a gate) is a sign. There are logical explanations for why I DNF’d in both races.”

In the GS, Shiffrin lost control of her inside ski coming around a turn as she entered the toughest section of a slope named Erta, which translates as steep.

With a gradient of 61 percent in that section, Shiffrin slid a long way down the course but immediately got up and was not injured.

“These things happen,” said Jeff Lackie, one of Shiffrin’s coaches. “They don’t typically happen with Mikaela because she’s so consistent. But anytime you add speed you have to be that much more diligent about being well balanced over the outside ski.”

It marked the first time in more than six years that Shiffrin failed to finish two consecutive races.

The last time came in back-to-back slaloms in Courchevel, France, and Flachau, Austria, in December 2011 — before the American registered her first World Cup podium.

“Now is a good time if it has to happen,” Lackie said. “I would rather it happen now and give her the opportunity to recalibrate and refocus.”

Shiffrin had been undefeated in 2018 in the technical disciplines of GS, slalom and parallel slalom with five straight wins.

And while she has been dominant in slalom with seven wins in eight races this season, she has only won two of six GS races — with Rebensburg and Brignone also gathering multiple victories.

“There are many strong girls in the GS races,” Rebensburg said “It’s not just (Shiffrin).”

Still, Shiffrin was distraught after her error, retreating immediately to the team hotel without first stopping to review the race with her mother and coach, Eileen Shiffrin, as she usually does.

“I don’t think she should be too disappointed,” Eileen said. “She made a mistake getting on her inside ski. I’m sure she won’t do that again.”

Added Lackie: “You don’t need to drag your face through the mud. She knows what she did wrong. Failure is not fatal. We’ll move on.”

After collecting herself in her hotel room, Shiffrin eventually came down and discussed the race. To lift her spirits, she played with the 5-month-old son of her ski technician, Kim Erlandson, while she spoke.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Shiffrin said, wiping away a tear or two. “Because out of all the runs that I ski — and I train more than probably anybody — I don’t crash and I don’t DNF. … I place so much emphasis on making every single turn perfect.”

Still, Shiffrin realizes that in the grand scheme of things, these races are not all that important.

While she dropped slightly behind Rebensburg in the giant slalom standings, Shiffrin still holds a massive 843-point lead over the German in the overall standings.

“Today is not the focus. The Olympics is the focus,” Shiffrin said. “But for me today is just a lesson to remember that nobody is invincible.”

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Andre De Grasse’s return headlines Drake Relays on NBC Sports

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Andre De Grasse believes he could have entered the Drake Relays as the world champion in the 100m and 200m. Instead, he watched those finals last August. One from his hotel room. The other on replay on social media.

De Grasse, the Rio Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, will race for the first time in nine months at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday as part of NBC Sports’ weekend track and field coverage.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold will air live coverage of the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

Friday
Penn Relays: 5-6 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday
Penn Relays: 12:30-3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold
Drake Relays: 3-5 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

The Canadian De Grasse is the Drake Relays headliner, racing for the first time since suffering a grade 2 right hamstring strain four days before last year’s worlds in London.

De Grasse faces a Drake field that includes six other men who have broken 10 seconds, but of them only U.S. Olympian Mike Rodgers (9.85) has a better personal best than De Grasse’s 9.91 from the Rio Olympic final.

Rodgers, a decade older than De Grasse, hasn’t broken 10 seconds in his last 28 wind-legal races, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The field is not of much concern for De Grasse.

“I’m not looking for a specific time or anything,” he said Monday. “Just looking to get my legs under me, get the rust off, see what I can do and go from there.”

De Grasse said in a recent CBC interview that he’s been training for five months since the injury. He remembers the thoughts as he watched the world championships, starting with Usain Bolt‘s relegation to bronze in his last individual race won by Justin Gatlin‘s late surge.

“I knew that it could have been anybody’s race; [silver medalist Christian] Coleman could have won, Bolt could have won or Gatlin,” De Grasse said Monday. “When I watched it, I was surprised because usually Bolt would usually catch [up to win]. Coleman was out in front. You couldn’t really see where Gatlin was. Usually, Bolt would come back at the end. It looked like, for sure, that would happen. It looked like from my view that Coleman won. When I saw the replay, Gatlin kind of just snuck in there. … I was definitely surprised of the outcome. … I wish I could have been in it, but there’s going to be more opportunities for me.”

(De Grasse said Tuesday he has not recently spoken with Bolt or “anybody in track in a while.” Last July, De Grasse’s coach was quoted saying that his sprinter was “booted out” of a race per Bolt’s wishes, which De Grasse later denied in a report, calling Bolt a legend.)

Gatlin’s winning time was 9.92 seconds into a .8 meters/second headwind. De Grasse failed to break 10 seconds in all five of his wind-legal 100m races last season, but he did run 9.69 seconds with a mammoth 4.8 meters/second tailwind a month and a half before worlds.

Then came the world 200m final five days later. De Grasse said he had never heard of surprise winner Ramil Guliyev of Turkey. Guliyev won in 20.09 seconds, the slowest Olympic or world gold-medal time since 2003.

“I ran against all of those guys before and felt like I was capable of winning a race like that if I wasn’t injured,” De Grasse said. “To be honest, I had never heard of most of those guys in the 200m final except for I think a couple of guys, Wayde van Niekerk and [Nethaneel] Mitchell-Blake from Great Britain.”

De Grasse’s goals this season include breaking the Canadian 100m record of 9.84 (shared by Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey, the latter’s time a then-world record at the 1996 Olympics). He would like to lower his 200m personal best of 19.80 from Rio.

He wants to win a Diamond League trophy for being the best man over 100m or 200m through the season. The 100m remains his preferred distance (“That’s the glory event.”).

De Grasse said he plans to race most of the Diamond League schedule, starting with the first two meets in Doha and Shanghai the next two weeks. De Grasse and Coleman are slated for a head-to-head at a Diamond League meet in London in July.

No matter what De Grasse does this season, he does not believe he can wrestle the mantle of world’s fastest man from Gatlin or Coleman.

“You can’t say off this year that you’re the fastest man in the world,” De Grasse said, noting it’s the only year in the quadrennium without a global championships. “You’ve got to wait until next year to do that.”

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U.S. snowboarder Brock Crouch seriously injured in avalanche

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U.S. snowboarder and surfer Brock Crouch was buried alive for five minutes in an avalanche before being rescued with three broken vertebrae, according to an older brother’s Instagram and USA Surfing.

Crouch, 18, “was swept off an 80-foot cliff,” by the avalanche while snowboarding in Canada, according to USA Surfing, adding that he fractured his T12, L1 and L2 vertebrae.

Images of Crouch holding a thumbs-up and peace sign lying in a hospital bed were posted on his Instagram Story on Tuesday.

“I was riding with Brock two days ago when he took a nasty ride in an avalanche down multiple rock bands due to a cornice failure resulting in him being buried for about 4 or 5 minutes,” was posted on snowboarder John Jackson‘s Instagram on Tuesday. “Crazy how a situation like this can surprise you so quickly. I’m so glad the whole crew performed a rockstar rescue and Brock is strong enough to handle what he went down.”

Crouch was in the running to make the PyeongChang Olympic team in big air and slopestyle but missed the four-man roster. He won the Olympic slopestyle test event in South Korea in 2016.

Can’t explain how happy I am to see this guy! @brockcrouch you are a soldier! I was riding with Brock two days ago when he took a nasty ride in an avalanche down multiple rock bands due to a cornice failure resulting in him being buried for about 4 or 5 minutes. Crazy how a situation like this can surprise you so quickly. I’m so glad the whole crew performed a rockstar rescue and Brock is strong enough to handle what he went down. Especially thankful for our pilot Josh, who didn’t waste a second in the situation. I was so impressed with this kids talent while we were riding all morning and know he will come back with a fury to continue getting after it. Love you bud, and massive prayers for that body to heal quickly! #extreme18 will be back! Although might have to change the m.o. to #nasty19 👊 #toughasnails

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