Future is now: Mikaela Shiffrin wins women’s slalom gold

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U.S. Alpine skiing’s great hope for the future has become an Olympic champion.

18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin overcame a run-in with a gate on her second and final run to win the gold medal in the women’s slalom, posting a two-run time of 1:44.54 that was .53 of a second faster than three-time Olympic medalist and World Cup slalom legend Marlies Schild.

Shiffrin, who entered Sochi as the reigning World Cup and world champion in slalom, is now the youngest Olympic slalom gold medal winner – man or woman. She takes that distinction from Italian skier Paoletta Magoni (who was 19 when she won at Sarajevo in 1984).

VIDEO: How did Mikaela Shiffrin get to this point?

She is also the first American to win the women’s slalom since Barbara Ann Cochran won at Sapporo in 1972 by .02 of a second.

After the event, Shiffrin admitted that she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to pull it off. As relayed by Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News:

Kathrin Zettel of Austria had the second-fastest last run to move from seventh to the bronze ahead of Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who won this event four years ago in Vancouver.

Schild herself moved from sixth to first with a scorching last run of 51.11 seconds. But Shiffrin still held the cards as the final top skier of the night.

VIDEO: Watch Shiffrin’s golden runs

All she needed was a clean run to win the gold. She didn’t quite have that with the tagging of the aforementioned gate, but she was able to power through.

Her second run time of 51.92 seconds was only sixth-quickest among those runs. But it was enough.

source: AP
Mikaela Shiffrin raises her arms in triumph after winning the women’s slalom gold. Photo: AP

MORE: Canada sweeps curling in Sochi, wins men’s gold over Great Britain

ALPINE SKIING – WOMEN’S SLALOM
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), 1:44.54
2. Marlies Schild (AUT), 1:45.07
3. Kathrin Zettel (AUT), 1:45.35

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”