Meissner: Carolina Kostner comes full circle

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Torino Olympian and 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner is working as a researcher for NBC Olympics during the Sochi Games. Here, her take on what struck her most from the ladies’ competition.

Looking at the ladies event Thursday night, one of my favorite moments came from Carolina Kostner, a veteran competing in her third Olympics. She has always been one of the most exquisite skaters on the ice, using her long arms and legs to create stunning lines, as well as her picturesque jumps. But skating aside, Carolina earned my admiration off the ice by being genuine and thoughtful to all of her fellow competitors, regardless of the outcome, which can be a rarity in such an individualized sport.

RESULTS: Sotnikova, Kim and Kostner top ladies’ podium

I competed alongside Carolina at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy and didn’t know she had skated an underwhelming program until after everything was all over. Watching the event on Italian television back in the village, the look of shock and disappointment on her face has stayed with me to this day.

Perhaps one reason why this moment struck me was because I had seen Carolina before competing myself. She was on her way out of the locker room and stopped to wish me luck, pulling me in for a hug. If I would have looked closer, maybe I could have seen her disappointment, but I was too excited about my own impending competition.

Her track record is spastic: full of moments that you would expect from a skater like herself and other placements that just make no sense. Sometimes the Carolina who won five European Championships shows up and at other times the Carolina who imploded and placed sixteenth in Vancouver does. You just never know.

The pressure of competition affects everyone differently and there is nothing like the pressure of skating in a Winter Olympic Games. You’ve finally reached the pinnacle of sport, most likely the culmination of a lifetime worth of sacrifice, and have trained specifically for just over six minutes to define your career.

RELATED: Kostner skating with new purpose in Sochi

In Torino for Carolina, add in the hometown audience on top of regular Olympic pressure. It’s stifling and terrifying, but also exhilarating and desirable. You want so badly to excel for your country and feel a burning desperation to achieve this. It’s quite the task to shoulder your expectations plus those of an entire country. These were the obstacles Carolina had to face eight years ago in Torino and unfortunately could not overcome.

She suffered a similar mental block in Vancouver and only landed one clean triple, breaking down after the free skate. As a skater, this is the moment of truth. Either commit for another four years or move on and – trust me! – the idea of not competing can be daunting instead of welcoming.

Ultimately, Carolina decided to stay and now finds herself with an Olympic bronze medal, finally able to embrace the pressure of the Olympics and greet it like an old friend. As for those of us who got to witness her earn Italy their first ladies figure skating medal, it is quiet confirmation of what we already knew.

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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