Even minus a medal, Mikaela Shiffrin already ‘amazing’

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — When Michael Phelps would stand on the blocks in an Olympic final and do that thing he did, wrapping his arms around and around and making that whap-whap-whap sound, was there really any doubt in his mind — or anyone’s watching — what was going to happen?

In the chaos of an Olympic short-track speed skating race, when Apolo Anton Ohno toed the line, his bandana tucked under his helmet, his gaze locked like steel on the first few meters of ice ahead, he was all purposeful calm. He knew what was what, and everyone else — on the line around him — and the thousands in the arena did, too.

VIDEO: Shiffrin combines attributes of the best

It takes great physical talent to become an Olympic athlete. A select few have something more. They have an extra level of mental awareness, purposefulness, toughness.

Even on a day when there is no medal — there are those in whom the signs are there of greatness assuredly there to come.

When 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin stepped into the start gate Tuesday morning before her very first Olympic run, it was pounding rain here at the Rosa Khutor Alpine complex, the rain turning to snow up top. Shiffrin took a look over at the TV cameras. She winked. It was on.

Shiffrin finished fifth in that run. She would end the day fifth overall. Tina Maze of Slovenia, back to being the dominant female skier in the world, as she was last season, won her second gold of these Sochi 2014 Olympics, and was so delighted she ripped off her skis and made snow angels, front and back, in the finish area.

Shiffrin, meanwhile, had served notice.

“For that age, she is great,” the 30-year-old Maze said afterwards of Shiffrin. “Amazing.”

WATCH: Tina Maze golden again; Mancuso exits minus medal

The giant slalom is not Shiffrin’s best event. That would be the slalom, coming up Friday. Shiffrin is leading this year’s slalom World Cup standings; she was last year’s slalom World Cup season champ, the youngest skier to win the season title since 1974, and is, moreover, the 2013 world champion.

In giant slalom this season, Shiffrin had come in second in one race, in Beaver Creek, Colo., and third in another, in Lienz, Austria, both in December.

Shiffrin came to Sochi after a block of training in central Europe, on soft snow in Italy, Germany and Austria, anticipating spring-like conditions at Rosa Khutor. “In training,” she had said upon arrival here, “I’ve had a lot of ruts to ski through, and from what I’m hearing, it’ll be good preparation for what I’m going to see.”

That was when it was still sunny here. Then the clouds moved in. Officials knew by Monday evening that conditions for Tuesday’s race were going to be so sketchy that they moved the start of the first run of the giant slalom — it’s two runs, combined total time wins — up from 11 a.m. to 9:30, hoping to get the event in.

None of this fazed Shiffrin.

“I was nervous at the start,” she said. “But when I was in the gate I wasn’t. I just wanted to ski.”

RELATED: Tina Maze wins giant slalom for second Sochi gold

Asked about the rain, and whether it affected her in the first run, she said, “I didn’t really notice it, so I guess not.”

Compare this to Italy’s Nadia Fanchini, third in the first run, who would go on to finish fourth overall: “Obviously, it’s very difficult to ski when it’s raining. Visibility is very poor and glasses get dirty very quickly.”

“I like racing in the rain,” Shiffrin also said with a giggle. “I’ve done a bunch of rainy races before, so those were preparation.”

In this regard, Shiffrin is — to draw another comparison to another breakout performer from Colorado — the American swim star Missy Franklin. When it’s not race time, they are typical teenagers. It’s time to laugh and be normal. When it’s go time, however, the rest of the world can wait.

Strike that. It’s not that the rest of the world can wait. It must wait, and will wait. What’s at hand in the start gate, or on the blocks, is the entire reason that Shiffrin, or Franklin, or others who profoundly get the essence of supreme athletic mission — the sense of being at one with the race, purposeful and energized and unfazed by anything.

RELATED: Mikaela Shiffrin – Model Olympian

“We’re all here to inspire the rest of the world with our sport,” Shiffrin had said, “and that’s exactly what I’m planning to do.”’

This is an 18-year-old talking, ladies and gentlemen.

She also had said that she had anticipated, and planned for, everything. This was, obviously, her first Olympic Games. But not, and this is the key, in her mind.

“It takes a lot of courage,” she had said, “to see yourself at the Olympics, to be able to see that in your head and then brush it away. To everybody else, it’s my first Olympics. But to me, it’s my 1,000th.”

She also told reporters, “I envisioned your questions. I wrote down the answers in my notebook. I have envisioned this moment for quite a while. I’ve envisioned myself on the top step of the podium and on the third step of the podium. I’ve envisioned myself crashing, and I know what mistake I’ve made in my head.”

She didn’t crash Tuesday. She was asked after the first run what she needed to do in the second to get a medal. She replied, “Ski faster.” And she laughed.

RELATED: Mikaela Shiffrin – Team USA Yearbook

The second run was delayed 14 minutes because of heavy snow up top and fog. Again, this didn’t faze Shiffrin.

“For a couple gates,” she said, “you start to convince yourself it’s going to be clear, and then it’s not. I actually didn’t have a problem with visibility. I felt like conditions were really good for how much it was precipitating. I was psyched.”

The second run, she said, “it just boiled down to losing a couple tenths on a couple turns that I didn’t ski as cleanly as the other girls.”

Asked what she would do differently, she said, nothing.

“I wouldn’t re-do any of them,” meaning her two runs, she said, adding, “I think this is supposed to happen.”

Excuse me, said the collected members of the press?

“Well,” Mikaela Shiffrin said, “I wanted a gold. “But I also, as I said — I think this is meant to happen. It’s something I am going to learn from.

“The next Olympics I go to,” she said, “I sure as heck am not getting fifth.”

Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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International Boxing Association lifts ban on Russia, Belarus

Boxing gloves
Getty
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The International Boxing Association (IBA) lifted its ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine that had been in place since early March.

“The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports,” the federation said in a press release. “Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.”

Most international sports federations banned athletes from Russia and Belarus indefinitely seven months ago, acting after an IOC recommendation. It is believed that the IBA is the first international federation in an Olympic sport to lift its ban.

The IOC has not officially changed its recommendation from last winter to exclude Russia and Belarus athletes “to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.”

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could at some point be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag.

IBA, in lifting its ban, will also allow Russia and Belarus flags and national anthems.

“The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries,” IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian, said in a press release last week. “Both the IOC and the International Federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In 2019, the IOC stripped the IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

The IBA will not run qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games, but it does still hold world championships, the next being a men’s event in Uzbekistan next year.

Boxing, introduced on the Olympic program in 1904, was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but can still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” Bach said last December.

On Sept. 23, the IBA suspended Ukraine’s boxing federation, citing “government interference.” Ukraine boxers are still allowed to compete with their flag and anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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