Sochi’s slalom signals shift of stars in women’s Alpine

0 Comments

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Mikaela Shiffrin’s first Olympic title also may have signaled the last Olympic races for the world’s two best all-around skiers.

Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Tina Maze, who have four Olympic medals each, said the slalom Friday night was their Olympic farewell.

Shiffrin wants to add speed racing in the next year or two, certainly before 2018, which could make the Sochi slalom a changing-of-the-guard event. (Lindsey Vonn may also have a say during this transition period.)

Hoefl-Riesch finished fourth and Maze was eighth in the slalom, the first time at these Winter Games that a women’s Alpine podium did not include either of the skiers. Hoefl-Riesch couldn’t stay on the podium, nor successfully defend her 2010 slalom title, after being second to Shiffrin in the first slalom run.

In the second run, Hoefl-Riesch skied into third and was bumped to fourth by the American, .38 seconds from her fifth career Olympic medal. Still, she finished her second Olympics with two medals, gold in the super combined and silver in the super-G.

“I can go home really happily,” said Hoefl-Riesch, who skipped Tuesday’s giant slalom Tuesday. “Today, fourth place is a little bit sad. That’s sports. The others were better today. You have to accept that. It was not a bad race for me.”

Maze was looking to become the first skier to place in the top five of all five events at one Olympics. Eighth place did not sit well with the bold woman who has a hit single with more than 700,000 views across YouTube videos.

VIDEO: Compare Shiffrin’s runs to the others’

“That’s my last one [career Olympic race],” said Maze, who won the giant slalom and tied for gold in the downhill in her fourth Olympics. “It feels terrible, finishing eighth. I was fighting. It didn’t work out. Two golds is more than I expected. Right now I feel a little down.”

She’ll have to settle for being the third skier to finish in the top 10 of all five events at one Olympics.

The others?

The most decorated Olympic Alpine skier of all time – Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt – and Hoefl-Riesch, who did it in 2010.

Hoefl-Riesch and Maze may never ski in an Olympics again, but they will be rivals the rest of the World Cup season. Maze is returning to the form that saw her post the greatest World Cup season by a man or woman in 2012-13.

VIDEO: Shiffrin talks about her golden feeling

She is in fifth place overall this season, 325 points behind the leader Hoefl-Riesch with nine races to go. It’s a healthy deficit but not insurmountable.

“Maria had a really good start of the season,” Maze said. “I had a pretty bad start. I hope I can catch her, for sure.”

Hoefl-Riesch, the 2012 World Cup overall champion, wasn’t taking Maze lightly.

“It will be a tough fight in the overall World Cup because Tina is back in shape now,” she said. “She is a little bit behind, but she can make that up for sure.”

Hoefl-Riesch, 29, said this could be her last World Cup season. She hopes to decide for sure before the final races in mid-March.

“Maybe even one more year is too much,” she said. “I’m doing this since I’m 16. I’m doing every single race since I’m 18 or 19. This is so intense. Over the years, I feel that my body is not making it so well anymore. I’m still having fun, still lots of fun for me to do every discipline. Sometimes I feel tired, and that’s so hard to motivate for another year. It’s not only the skiing in the winter, but it’s all the work in the summer. It’s so tough and so complicated when you’re doing all events.”

Vonn, 29, wants to return next season. It’s unclear if she’ll pick up the technical events, giant slalom and slalom.

Three months before she ruled herself out of the Olympics, Vonn said that she wouldn’t ski slalom in Sochi. She also said she might not ski any giant slalom this season, before she announced she needed another knee surgery and abandoned her year after four speed races.

Shiffrin, 18, is on the way in for the overall picture in the next Olympic cycle.

She has never raced a World Cup speed event, but she has trained super-G and thought a lot about when she’ll add it to her repertoire.

The Vail native is taking a calculated approach.

“I’m still not quite where I want to be with [giant slalom], at this point in the season,” said Shiffrin, who was fifth in the Olympic giant slalom. “I mean, I’ve definitely improved a lot, but my goal is really to get my slalom and GS dialed in before I move to speed, so when I do I’m able to spread myself that thin and be OK with it. Hopefully, maybe, some super-Gs next year. Maybe even the end of this year, but it all depends on how I’m feeling.”

Maze has been impressed with Shiffrin’s giant slalom skills, even reportedly calling her a “young Tina Maze.” Maze was also cautious, though.

“Speed, you need a lot of experience,” Maze said. “She will need a lot of training.”

Hoefl-Riesch said Shiffrin could “become the greatest ever.”

“For her age, unbelievable how technical perfect her skiing is and also how she is handling all the pressure and expectations,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “I never saw her on long skis, but I’m sure she will have good technique for that and be really fast, too.”

Skiing fans will appreciate Hoefl-Riesch and Maze, though. They have a combined 20 Olympic and World Championship medals between them, plus 50 World Cup victories.

Their accolades may have been far from their minds Friday, as they spoke to reporters while the medalists were presented with flowers behind them.

“Finishing like this,” Maze said, “is not satisfying.”

Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

0 Comments

Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
Getty
0 Comments

Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!