Mikaela Shiffrin eyes breakthrough with World Cup season approaching

Mikaela Shiffrin
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NEW YORK — Three days before Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in February, she finished fifth in her first Olympic race, the giant slalom.

“She was almost crying,” Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, told reporters the day her daughter missed the medals by .23 of a second (the podium finishers were all at least five years older than the American).

Shiffrin felt disappointed despite skiing about to her level, having placed second, third, sixth and eighth in four World Cup giant slalom races she had finished before the Olympics. She hoped she would notch her first top-level giant slalom win at the Olympics, though.

“Next Olympics,” Shiffrin said in Russia, “I’m sure as heck not getting fifth.”

Shiffrin didn’t break through in GS in the post-Olympic World Cup races in March, so she carries over her goals into the new season beginning next month.

Defend the World Cup slalom title. Win her first giant slalom race.

“And hopefully get a couple more [GS wins] after that,” she said in the lobby of a Midtown Manhattan hotel Wednesday afternoon. “I’m really hoping to try to separate myself a little bit in GS this year. It’s a tough event. A lot of people say it’s the hardest event because it’s a mix between slalom and super-G. It’s just tough.”

The 19-year-old said her training is more balanced going into her fourth season on tour.

“Before, if I had the choice to train slalom or GS, I always chose slalom,” said Shiffrin, who holds the three most prestigious titles in slalom, Olympic champion, World champion and World Cup champion. “Now, it’s like, all right, well my slalom feels pretty good, but I need work on GS, or it just depends upon how I feel.”

She recently finished a five-week technical events camp in New Zealand with U.S. teammates and feels in “more of a comfort zone” with GS, which requires more speed than the other technical discipline, slalom.

It’s all in preparation for the first event of the World Cup season, a giant slalom race in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 25. Shiffrin heads to Europe three weeks before that.

If Shiffrin had to prioritize her goals — defending her World Cup slalom title and winning her first GS race — which would she prefer?

“That’s a tough one,” she said. “Last year, I would have chosen slalom. But I don’t think I’m going to have to choose this year. I think my slalom’s at a point where I’m really comfortable with where I’m at. I’m comfortable with that speed. It’s not a question whether I can put good skiing out there. It’s whether I’ll be hindered by ruts in the course or whatever it is. But in general my skiing is there. That level is there. That leaves a little bit more room for training GS, which is what I need to be able to race comfortably in GS.”

Shiffrin’s early giant slalom work this season will also go into determining if and when she makes her World Cup debut in a super-G race, the next level up in speed.

This season’s World Cup calendar doesn’t include any sites where the women race a super-G and a technical event on the same weekend before February’s World Championships in Beaver Creek and Vail, Colo.

“Hopefully, before World Champs, I’ll be able to squeeze in one or two super-Gs,” Shiffrin said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to make something work, but we’re just not sure where or when it would be.”

It won’t be in Lake Louise, Alberta, the first speed races of the season where Lindsey Vonn hopes to make her return from Dec. 5-7.

“I’m not a tucker yet,” Shiffrin said, smiling. “I’ve got to get some more meat packed on me before I can expect to do well there.”

Shiffrin will be expected to continue rising in giant slalom. Her spot atop slalom appears more assured, given Olympic silver medalist Marlies Schild retired last week.

“I guess it wasn’t really a surprise, but it’s still upsetting,” Shiffrin said of the Austrian Schild, one of her skiing idols, who overcame injury, age (32) and a sixth-place first run at the Olympics to swipe slalom silver. “She’s a legend, and I wanted to keep racing with her for a little longer. One of my goals was to succeed in slalom, and to win slaloms, but also one of my goals was to be able to race with her. I’m lucky I got an opportunity to do that.”

Shiffrin’s U.S. Ski Team coach, Roland Pfeifer, recently told SkiRacing.com that Shiffrin produced promising returns in summer training, cleaning up her skiing on a new GS ski.

“With the work we’ve put into it already and a little bit of fine-tuning in Europe heading into Soelden, it’s going to be exciting to see what she’s capable of,” Pfeifer told the website. “She will be better than last year.”

Cautious Lindsey Vonn hopes to chase wins record this season

U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final