mikaela shiffrin

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn returns to World Cup, boost to Mikaela Shiffrin

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FLACHAU, Austria (AP) — With Lindsey Vonn‘s return to the World Cup this week, Mikaela Shiffrin is looking forward to leaving the limelight to her American teammate.

Nursing a knee injury and a broken arm for the past 11 months, Vonn will take part in official downhill training in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, on Thursday and Friday, and a downhill race Saturday (5:15 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app; 3 p.m. ET, NBC), according to the U.S. Ski Team.

Vonn earned two of her record 76 victories at the Austrian resort a year ago.

Shiffrin can’t wait for the four-time overall champion to return to the start gates.

“For sure, when she is around, I feel like I am less the one that people want to talk to, and that is definitely nice. I am generally a quiet person,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press after finishing third in a night slalom on Tuesday.

“She is really good at the spotlight, I have to say that,” Shiffrin said. “She knows how to put on a show. I don’t even think she is trying to, she is just like skiing fast and doing her thing and everybody wants to see that.”

Vonn hasn’t raced since fracturing her left knee in a super-G crash in Andorra last February (video here). Two weeks before her planned comeback at speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in November, she broke her right upper arm during a fall in training.

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion returned to skiing last week in Vail, Colorado, and traveled to Europe after the weekend to join the U.S. speed team.

Another American standout, Julia Mancuso, was also closing in on her comeback to World Cup racing. A winner of nine medals at major championships, Mancuso sat out the entire last season to have surgery on a persistent hip problem.

Like Vonn, Mancuso planned to start in this week’s training runs in Austria before deciding about racing over the weekend.

“They both have been amazing athletes in the sports. For ski racing in the U.S. they have been huge,” Shiffrin said. “I am crossing my fingers that they can get back in the starting gate and ski fast because everybody loves watching them.”

The races in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee consist of a downhill on Saturday followed a day later by a combined event, with a super-G and a slalom run.

A winner of 24 slaloms and three GS races, Shiffrin has been tiptoeing into speed races as well. The Olympic slalom champion was planning to start in Sunday’s combined event but was reluctant to put too many super-G and downhill races on her schedule.

Her head coach, Mike Day, said Shiffrin “is a racer who puts in a lot of volume into the training and is looking for a specific feeling to be confident going into the races.”

Shiffrin has done 13 technical events and three speed races so far this season.

“With that high-volume approach, fatigue is obviously an issue,” Day said. “We are monitoring fatigue to make sure she wouldn’t be going into a speed race with mental or physical fatigue. She needs to be sharp.”

With Tuesday’s third-place finish, Shiffrin passed the 1,000-point mark for the season as she extended her overall World Cup lead over defending champion Lara Gut of Switzerland to 365 points.

Not chasing the overall title, Shiffrin said she will stick to her initial goals for the season: Winning the slalom title again and improving in GS.

“(Gut) has already won the overall. I am sure it’s a big, big thing in her head so she will be going into every single one of these races looking for 100 points,” Shiffrin said. “I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if she takes that lead very quickly.”

However, with Vonn back, Gut will have to face another strong competitor for World Cup points in the speed races.

“It’s definitely a thought on my mind, I have to admit,” Shiffrin said. “Lindsey comes back and obviously she wants to win, so I am like, ‘Go right ahead.'”

MORE: Vonn sees embarrassment, but not for her, in bid to race men

NBC Sports broadcast schedule (all ET)

Friday
Downhill training 
6 a.m., NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app
Saturday
Downhill race
4:45 a.m., NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app
5:30 p.m., Universal HD
Sunday
Super combined race
3:30 a.m., super-G, NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app
6:15 a.m., slalom, NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app
6 p.m., Universal HD

Mikaela Shiffrin beaten after slow first run in night slalom

FLACHAU, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 10: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Slalom on January 10, 2017 in Flachau, Austria (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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Mikaela Shiffrin couldn’t overcome a slow (by her standards) first run and tied for third in a World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday night.

The youngest Olympic slalom champion was .78 of a second shy of Swedish winner Frida Hansdotter after two runs. Shiffrin won five of the first six World Cup slaloms this season going into Tuesday.

Shiffrin was in fifth place after the first run in Flachau, 1.38 seconds behind Hansdotter, then had the fastest second run by one tenth.

“I just didn’t ski fast enough,” Shiffrin said after her first run. “And that’s pretty much it.”

RACE RESULTS | RUN 2 REPLAY

Olympic champions Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso could race for the first time this season at the next World Cup stop in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, this weekend, starting with a downhill training run Thursday.

Vonn, coming back from a broken arm suffered in a Nov. 11 training crash, last raced Feb. 28. Mancuso, who had November 2015 hip surgery, last raced March 7, 2015.

NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will live stream racing Saturday (downhill) and Sunday (super combined) mornings. Shiffrin said she definitely won’t be racing the downhill but may do the super combined, which is one super-G run and one slalom run.

On Tuesday, Shiffrin moved 365 points ahead in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, through 19 of a scheduled 37 races.

That lead, which is comfortable now, will be cut into significantly before February’s world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and leading into the season-ending World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in March.

That’s because the early season was weighed heavily with Shiffrin’s best events — slalom and giant slalom. Speed races of downhill and super-G make up the majority of the remaining schedule.

Defending World Cup overall champion Lara Gut is stronger in speed events and is the main threat to Shiffrin’s lead over the next two months. The Swiss Gut is in second place in the standings but arguably still the favorite for the overall title.

“One of my big goals that I want to accomplish is the overall,” Shiffrin, who could become the third U.S. woman to take the biggest annual prize in ski racing (Tamara McKinney, Vonn), said after her previous race Sunday, a slalom victory. “And I don’t know if it happens this year, but eventually that will be a big goal. … Right now, my focus is more world championships, but, eventually it will be more overall, probably.”

VIDEO: Tina Maze makes bizarre farewell in final race

Mikaela Shiffrin overcomes gate malfunction for bounce-back win

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Something strange happened during Mikaela Shiffrin‘s second and final run of a World Cup slalom on Sunday.

Shiffrin was skiing with a two tenths of a second lead when, all of a sudden, a red gate she cleared popped off in Maribor, Slovenia. It bounced off one of her ski poles and landed between her skis in the middle of the course.

Shiffrin cleared the next two gates with that broken red gate ricocheting at her boots. She eventually skied over that gate and left it behind her. Somehow, she only fell .09 behind at the next split time.

Shiffrin had fewer than 20 seconds to regain her speed and the lead. She did just that, and won by .19 of a second over Swiss Wendy Holdener.

“I saw a lot of gates were breaking when I was watching the other girls,” Shiffrin said. “I thought that, probably, it would happen for me as well. And it did, but with everybody else it seemed the gate went out of the way. For me, it just kept, like, getting stuck on my skis and my boots. So it was a bit distracting, but I don’t think it cost too much. I was focused.”

RUN 2 REPLAY | RACE RESULTS

With the win, Shiffrin notched an unprecedented feat.

Lindsey Vonn hasn’t done it. Neither has Ingemar StenmarkFranz Klammer or Alberto Tomba.

Shiffrin became the first skier to win five World Cup races in the same discipline, any discipline, in four straight years. She also won a handful of slaloms in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Remarkably, she doesn’t turn 22 years old for another two months.

In all, Shiffrin has raced 30 slaloms across the Olympics, world championships and World Cups the last four seasons. She has won 22 of them, including 14 of her last 15.

She bounced back Sunday from a stunning DNF in the previous slalom last Tuesday, which broke a personal 15-race winning streak in the discipline.

Shiffrin now owns 27 career World Cup victories, one more than Tina Maze and equal with Maria Höfl-Riesch, the retired skiers who were Vonn’s biggest rivals in their heyday.

She also increased her World Cup overall standings lead to 305 points over Swiss Lara Gut through 18 of a scheduled 37 races. However, more speed races than technical races remain this season. If Shiffrin and Gut repeat their average finishes per discipline the rest of the season, Shiffrin will win the overall title by about 25 points.

“One of my big goals that I want to accomplish is the overall,” said Shiffrin, who could become the third U.S. woman to take the biggest annual prize in ski racing (Tamara McKinney, Vonn). “And I don’t know if it happens this year, but eventually that will be a big goal. … Right now, my focus is more world championships, but, eventually it will be more overall, probably.”

Shiffrin will be favored in the next World Cup race, a night slalom in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday.

Gut is expected to begin her ascent next weekend, with a downhill and combined in Zauchensee, Austria. Vonn and fellow U.S. Olympic champion Julia Mancuso, both coming back from major injuries, could make their season debuts there.

VIDEO: Tina Maze makes bizarre farewell in final race