Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin laughs about dream of 5 golds, but Obama supports her

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Mikaela Shiffrin left her mark in Sochi, not only in winning the slalom, but also in a media center the next day when she said she dreamed of winning five gold medals at the 2018 Olympics.

Shiffrin regretted blurting out that lofty vision six weeks later, not that she didn’t think she could do it, but because it became “a quote” that media ran with.

“I was on a gold-medal high there,” Shiffrin joked at the Best of U.S. Awards in Washington on Wednesday. “Whoops, shouldn’t have said that. … Of course, that’s everybody’s dream. You go to the Olympics to bring home gold, right?”

Shiffrin, 19 and the youngest Olympic slalom champion ever, received encouragement from President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday. Obama mentioned Shiffrin’s five-gold-medal dream in an address to a room full of Olympians, Paralympians … and more media.

“I’ve just got three words of advice,” Obama directed toward Shiffrin. “Go for it.”

If it indeed becomes a “drive for five” — a term thrown around when the disgraced Marion Jones entered five track and field events in Sydney 2000 — Shiffrin’s quest might have begun already.

The youngest Olympic women’s slalom champion ever trained super-G on the 2015 World Championships course last week. Shiffrin is the world’s best slalom skier and among the 10 best in giant slalom but has never raced a downhill, super combined or super-G in a World Cup.

She met last week with U.S. Ski Team coach Roland Pfeifer, who has coached Shiffrin in slalom and giant slalom. The U.S. is bringing in a new speed events coach, whom Shiffrin said she has yet to meet.

Pfeifer stressed comfort in their discussion about adding super-G. There is no set plan on how much super-G she will race next season.

“It’s anywhere from nothing to everything,” said Shiffrin, who marveled at marble staircases and Georgian architecture while touring the White House on Thursday. “When you’re in the starting gate, I want you to really feel like you can charge that course [Pfeifer said]. Even if you don’t have experience, even if it’s icy. It’s just getting to the point where I have some experience on super-G skis, on hard courses, and then I should be comfortable.”

The biggest advice Shiffrin has received? Patience.

“Not to rush it because it’s really hard to be a four-event skier [downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom],” Shiffrin said. “Slalom and GS are the ones you have to train the most. If you’re doing speed, you don’t get to train them [slalom and giant slalom]. It’s mostly about pacing myself. Do a few super-Gs, and then just start learning downhill.”

Time is on her side. Shiffrin has nearly four years to round into the all-around form she desires if the Olympics are the big goal.

The world’s best all-event skiers the last two seasons, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Tina Maze, have said they will not ski at the next Olympics.

It’s unknown if Lindsey Vonn, who is better in speed events, will ski any giant slalom or slalom after coming back from her knee surgeries. Or if she will be able to make it to her fourth Olympics in 2018.

World Cup overall winner Anna Fenninger, a 24-year-old Austrian, is at the top right now, but she does not race slalom.

“Sometimes I just want to jump into super-G because I’m like, ‘I can do that,’ but then I take a step back, especially after I train super-G,” Shiffrin said. “And I then think about the top speed girls and how good they are. That’s still a little ways away. I need a lot of practice.”

She’ll get it, even in the offseason. Shiffrin’s slated for another training camp in May, and most skiers head to Chile in August or September for more work before the World Cup schedule starts in October.

After four more seasons of World Cup experience, perhaps media will run with this stat before Pyeongchang 2018: the most medals won by a single Alpine skier at one Olympics is four.

“Hopefully I have a shot at as many gold medals as I can get,” Shiffrin said. “Who knows if I’ll actually get them, but as long as I give myself a chance, then I’m happy.”

What U.S. Olympians told President Obama

Matthew Centrowitz redeems, Jenny Simpson upset at USATF Outdoors

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Matthew Centrowitz won his fifth U.S. 1500m title, while Jenny Simpson‘s run of four straight ended at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines on Saturday.

Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years, emerged from a bunched pack in the final 200 meters to win in 3:43.37.

The 28-year-old returned to the top after being beaten by Olympic teammate Robby Andrews last year. Centrowitz struggled with injuries and illness in 2017, including an emergency-room visit with a viral infection. At 2017 Worlds, a listless Centrowitz was last in his first-round heat and said he was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season.

Centrowitz crossed the Drake Stadium finish line Saturday afternoon, a comfortable .26 ahead of Izaic Yorks, and held his hand to his ear to mimic a phone call. He said he was sending a message for somebody, whom he would not name, to call him.

“Satisfaction out there,” Centrowitz told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “A little sense of relief, get back on top.”

Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist, was beaten by Olympic 5000m runner Shelby Houlihan for the second time this season. The Sioux City native Houlihan surged past Simpson on the final straight, just as she did at the Pre Classic last month.

“I’m totally bummed, but I guess I have a lot of practice at losing as well as winning,” Simpson told media in Des Moines. “It felt a little weird being at U.S. Championships and getting outkicked.”

Houlihan won in 4:05.48, .73 ahead of runner-up Simpson.

“I feel like she’s way ahead of me,” Houlihan said of Simpson. “She’s someone I’ve looked up to since high school.”

An American record fell Saturday. Deanna Price took the women’s hammer record back from Gwen Berry with a 78.12-meter throw, the best in the world this year.

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday on NBC (4-6 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (12:30-6 p.m.), highlighted by 200m, 5000m and 110m hurdles finals.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Results | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Also Saturday, Shakima Wimbley and Kahmari Montgomery won their first U.S. titles in the 400m.

Wimbley prevailed in 49.52, lowering her personal best by .66, tying the fastest time in the world this year and torching a field lacking the last two world champions, Phyllis Francis and Allyson Felix. Wimbley showed promise at the Pre Classic last month, finishing third behind Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Francis.

Montgomery clocked 44.58 to win, two weeks after finishing seventh at the NCAA Championships for the University of Houston. The men’s field lacked 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt and Michael Norman, the fastest man in the world this year who opted to race the 200m this week.

World-record holder Kendra Harrison repeated as 100m hurdles champion. Harrison clocked 12.46, off of her world record of 12.20. Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, who beat Harrison in Shanghai on May 12, was not in the field.

World gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs went one-two in the 3000m steeplechase. Coburn, the Olympic bronze medalist, earned her seventh national title in eight years by clocking 9:17.70. She pulled away from Frerichs on the last lap to win by .99. Nobody else finished within 15 seconds.

“[Frerichs] gave me a run for my money,” Coburn, who has been beaten by a countrywoman once in eight years, said on NBC. “This is going to be a battle that’s worth watching for years to come.”

In the pole vault, Olympic bronze medalist and world champion Sam Kendricks cleared 5.85 meters for his fifth straight U.S. title.

Vashti Cunningham repeated as high jump champion by clearing 1.95 meters. Cunningham, whose father and coach is retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, was 13th at the Olympics and 10th at the world championships.

Darrell Hill upset Olympic champion Ryan Crouser in the shot put, winning with a 21.57-meter throw. Hill improved to 3-17 against Crouser. Crouser came to Des Moines with the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws, according to Tilastopaja.org. But on Saturday he had five fouls in six throws. His only legal throw was 20.99 meters for second place.

NCAA runner-up Kenny Selmon won the 400m hurdles from lane eight against a field that lacked Olympic champion Kerron Clement. Selmon clocked 48.21 seconds, three tenths ahead of TJ Holmes, who was fifth at 2017 Worlds.

The favorites advanced to Sunday’s semifinals in the 200m and 110m hurdles, including 400m indoor world-record holder Michael Norman and Olympian Ameer Webb in the 200m and world-record holder Aries Merritt, Olympian Devon Allen and NCAA champion Grant Holloway in the hurdles.

MORE: Lyles, Norman, green teens at Olympic Trials, now stars at USATF Champs

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U.S. Open changes seeding policy for pregnancies

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Serena Williams will learn Wednesday if she is seeded at Wimbledon, while a top U.S. Open official is already reportedly saying its seeds will be revised if a return from pregnancy comes into play, though not naming Williams specifically.

The U.S. Open, the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year in September, would “revise the seedings if pregnancy is a factor in the current rankings of a player,” USTA president and chairwoman Katrina Adams said, according to The New York Times.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, was not given one of 32 seeds at the French Open in May, her first Grand Slam since coming back from having daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jron Sept. 1.

Her ranking had fallen to No. 453 due to maternity leave. She could enter the major tournament due to the WTA’s protected ranking rule, but it was up to Grand Slam organizers whether to give her a seed.

Williams reached the semifinals of her last eight U.S. Opens, missing the New York event in 2010 and 2017. She has won it six times. Her current ranking is No. 183.

If Williams neither makes a deep Wimbledon run nor plays plenty of summer hard-court matches, it’s likely the U.S. Open will have to decide whether to give her a seed. It sounds like organizers are prepared to.

“It’s the right thing to do for these mothers that are coming back,” Adams said, according to the report, adding that players should not be “penalized” for starting a family.

Williams reached the fourth round of the French Open in her first Grand Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant (but before the world learned). She withdrew before a round of 16 showdown with Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral muscle injury and has not played in a tournament since.

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