Mikaela Shiffrin

Shiffrin to miss Opening Ceremony in Sochi for training

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After finishing seventh in today’s FIS World Cup slalom event in Slovenia, Team USA Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin will be taking some extra time away from Sochi to prepare for the Olympics.

According to the New York Times, Shiffrin, who will compete in the giant slalom on Feb. 18 and the slalom on Feb. 21, will not be in attendance for the opening ceremony this Friday at Fisht Olympic Stadium.

Instead, per the NYT’s Christopher Clarey, she will be training in Italy with other American technical skiers for much of the Olympics’ first week.

“It will be strange,” Shiffrin said about not being around for the first few days of competition. “We might be thinking, ‘Maybe we should get going.'”

That said, the work in Italy could help in putting today’s run in Slovenia – in which she caught a rut in the course and lost valuable time while recovering – out of her mind. The 18-year-old American remains atop the World Cup standings by 80 points over today’s winner, Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

But with the Olympics looming, that’s being put on the back-burner. As for pressure, Shiffrin says she isn’t really feeling it yet.

“It’s definitely a big event and it’s very prestigious and there’s a lot going on,” she added according to the NYT. “I would never want to underestimate the Olympics or take anything away from that, but the race in and of itself is just another race.

“Whether it’s at the Olympics or the World Cup or wherever it is, it’s still start and finish and some gates in between.”

Ted Ligety blasts field, fog for 21st World Cup win in St. Moritz giant slalom

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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