Polina Edmunds draws comparisons to skating idol Tara Lipinski

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As a 15-year-old figure skating phenom, Polina Edmunds inevitably demands comparisons to Tara Lipinski. That probably doesn’t bother Edmunds, either, as Lipinski provided her with plenty of inspiration to pursue her figure skating dreams all the way to Sochi.

“What really inspired me about Tara was the joy she showed after each of her performances,” Edmunds said.

It’s true that Edmunds has had her sight set on Sochi for yearsespecially considering her Russian roots – yet her rise remains remarkable. She managed to qualify for the Olympics by taking silver in January’s U.S. Championships, her first senior-level competition.

In doing so, she became the youngest American individual performer to qualify for the Olympics since Lipinski won gold in 1998. Fittingly, Edmunds was born months after that memorable moment.

It’s the kind of rare accomplishment that even leaves fellow figure skating competitor Ashley Wagner impressed.

“How many girls get to say their first senior international was the Olympics?” Wagner said to USA Today. “Not too many.”

Then again, as this earlier Olympic Talk profile discusses, maybe her leap shouldn’t be as surprising as her age and experience might suggest.

As much as she spoke about being surprised, Edmunds exuded confidence to the New York Daily News about her chances during the U.S. Championships (comments there were backed up with that second-place finish).

“I think my long [program] should, if I skate it clean, it should get a high score because I have the highest technical elements of all the ladies here,” Edmunds said. “I have two triple-triples in my program and two flips and two lutzes. I just need to go out there and skate it like I’ve been training.”

(She even attends the same San Jose high school that summer Olympic icons Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brandi Chastain graduated from, which prompted this spirited send-off.)

With marquee favorites Yuna Kim (South Korea) and Mao Asada (Japan) in mind, Edmunds remains an underdog heading into the 2014 Olympics. She might not always sound like one, though.

Meet Polina Edmunds, breakthrough Olympic figure skater.

Germany denied gold-medal sweep of world luge championships races

Jonas Muller
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Austrian Jonas Müller denied Germany’s bid to sweep all nine races at the world luge championships.

Müller, a 25-year-old who was not on Austria’s Olympic team, won the men’s event by .104 of a second over German Max Langenhan at worlds in Oberhof, Germany, combining times from two runs. Another Austrian, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, earned bronze.

Three-time Olympian Tucker West was the top American in 13th. Chris Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, skipped worlds as he raced a limited schedule this season.

Germany won the first seven of eight singles and doubles races on Friday and Saturday, including sprint events that aren’t on the Olympic program. After its defeat in the men’s event, it won the team relay to close the championships later Sunday with golds in eight of the nine events.

Its last gold-medal sweep at worlds was in 2013, when there were four events on the program. Germany also swept the Olympic golds in 2014 and 2022.

Müller, the 2020 World silver medalist who dropped out of Austria’s top three men last season, said his sled broke in a crash at a World Cup two weeks ago in Sigulda, Latvia.

“I flew home the next day and unpacked the old sled again,” he said, according to the International Luge Federation. “As you can see, the old sled doesn’t seem so bad.”

While Germany has dominated women’s and doubles events, this marked the third consecutive worlds with a non-German men’s winner, its longest drought since the mid-1990s.

Johannes Ludwig retired after winning last year’s Olympics. Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion and record six-time world champion, placed fourth on Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin barely denied in first bid to tie Alpine skiing World Cup wins record

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin was denied in her first bid to tie the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record by six hundredths of a second.

Shiffrin, trying to tie Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 World Cup victories, led by 67 hundredths over German Lena Duerr after the first of two slalom runs in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

The last racer to go in the second run, Shiffrin’s lead over Duerr dwindled as she neared the finish line. It was down to 15 hundredths at the last intermediate split with 10 seconds left of the course.

Shiffrin crossed the finish line, saw that she ended up six hundredths behind, opened her mouth, rocked her head and put her hand to her helmet. It was the closest slalom defeat of her career, which has included a record 52 World Cup slalom victories.

“I felt like the first run I skied really well, and I actually skied quite well in the second as well,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Six tenths is not actually so much time. … Lena has been strong all season, and she deserves to win.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Duerr, 31, earned her second World Cup win, 10 years to the day after her first. Shiffrin won 82 World Cup races in that span.

“It took me a while,” Duerr said. “Crazy that today’s the day.”

Shiffrin’s next bid to tie Stenmark, the Swedish legend of the 1970s and ’80s, won’t be until March.

Next up are the world championships in France, starting Feb. 6, which are separate from the World Cup.

Shiffrin’s next planned World Cup races are either speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway, the first weekend of March or a giant slalom and slalom in Stenmark’s home nation at Åre, Sweden, from March 10-11 ahead of her 28th birthday on March 13.

“I don’t have any expectations going into it,” said Shiffrin, whose first World Cup win came in Åre in 2012. “It’s just like every race of the season, just trying to take it all in and enjoy my skiing, enjoy when the other athletes are skiing better, too, because there’s always some to learn from that.”

Shiffrin began last week tied with Lindsey Vonn for second place on the career wins list at 82. She then rattled off victories on Wednesday and Thursday in giant slaloms in Kronplatz, Italy, and Saturday in the first slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

She has 11 wins in 23 starts this season, her best campaign since her record 17-win 2018-19 season.

She did break one record on Sunday — clinching her seventh World Cup slalom season title with two races left in the discipline.

She broke her tie with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s, for most women’s World Cup slalom season titles. Stenmark won eight and is tied with Vonn (downhill) for the most season titles in any discipline.

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