Padraig Harrington’s goal to make 2016 Olympics

Padraig Harrington
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Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington‘s hope is to improve more than 300 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking over the next 21 months to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“I don’t normally tell the media my goals, but I will this time,” he said at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he was in a nine-way tie for the lead during the second round Friday when this post was published. “My aim is to return to the world top 15 by 2016 for the Olympics. It makes no difference where I am in the world now because I’ve got 21 months of results counting from here.”

Harrington, who will be 44 come golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, was ranked as high as No. 3 in the world around a stretch when he won the 2007 and 2008 British Opens and the 2008 PGA Championship, his last PGA or European Tour victory.

He fell to No. 131 at the end of 2013 and is now No. 324.

Harrington is right that he will likely have to be in the top 15 in the world at the Olympic rankings cutoff on July 11, 2016, to be assured of making Ireland’s team.

He is also right that his current ranking makes little difference when it comes to Olympic qualification, since the Olympic qualification rankings are mostly determined by yet-to-come results from now until July 2016.

The men’s and women’s fields for the 2016 Olympic golf tournaments are set to include 60 players each. Everybody in the top 15 of the world rankings will be eligible up to four per country.

After that, the field will be filled by the next highest-ranked players with a maximum of two players per nation.

If Ireland has two players in the top 15, nobody from Ireland outside the top 15 makes it to Rio.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is from Northern Ireland but will compete for Ireland at the 2016 Olympics, should he qualify, as expected. Same goes for countryman Graeme McDowell, ranked 18th. The top Irishman is No. 55 Shane Lowry.

Justin Gatlin among IAAF World Athlete of the Year candidates

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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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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