Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin wins her first World Cup giant slalom in Soelden tie (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her first career World Cup giant slalom race, tying for the victory in the season opener in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.

The U.S. Olympic slalom champion clocked a two-run time of 2 minutes, 39.85 seconds. As did Austrian Anna Fenninger, the reigning World Cup overall champion. Another Austrian, Eva-Maria Brem, was third.

“I’m really psyched I made it down alive [in the second run],” said Shiffrin, who had a stomach ache before her second run. “Maybe I’ll try to get on the top step on my own next time.

“It’s a pretty good start. I can’t really wish for better.”

Shiffrin led Fenninger by .09 after the first run. She was the last skier to go in the second run and fell .63 behind Fenninger at an early split but made up the deficit. She was obviously pleased with the tie, smiling while putting her hands on her knees after seeing a scoreboard crossing the finish line.

“As long as you see the green light [on the scoreboard, indicating having taken a lead], then it’s good,” Shiffrin said. “The last year, and the past three years, I’ve come down in GS and seen red, red, red. It feels good to finally come the second run and see green.”

Shiffrin, 19, who became the youngest Olympic men’s or women’s slalom gold medalist ever in Sochi, set these youngest-since World Cup marks Saturday:

* Youngest World Cup giant slalom men’s or women’s race winner since France’s Tessa Worley on Nov. 9, 2008.
* Youngest U.S. World Cup giant slalom men’s or women’s race winner since Diann Roffe on March 13, 1985 (Roffe was 17).
* Youngest Soelden men’s or women’s race winner since Nicole Hosp (18), Tina Maze (19) and Andrine Flemmen (27) tied for the win in 2002, the first three-way tie in World Cup history.

Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup champion in the slalom, but she was near tears in Sochi after finishing fifth in the Olympic giant slalom three days before she won the slalom.

“I was really thinking that my first giant slalom win would be at the Olympics,” Shiffrin said in Sochi, though her agent, a former World Cup racer, said Shiffrin skied to her level in the Olympic giant slalom.

So she made it her primary post-Olympic goal to win her first giant slalom race. Shiffrin was sixth in Soelden last year and notched her first career World Cup giant slalom podiums with second- and third-place finishes last December.

Saturday marked her 23rd career World Cup giant slalom start. Shiffrin was 43rd in her first giant slalom on March 11, 2011, 4.64 seconds behind the first-run leader. She failed to qualify for the second run and was two days shy of her 16th birthday.

She won her first World Cup slalom race in her 14th start in that discipline.

“It’s very helpful to know that I can win GS,” Shiffrin said. “I’ve thought it for so long and believed in myself, but today was the first day where, between runs, I was like, I really think I can do this.”

On Saturday, Fenninger won her fifth straight World Cup giant slalom race with the tie. Shiffrin may be emerging as a threat to Fenninger’s defense of the World Cup overall title. The American was fifth and sixth in the overall standings, a sum of results across all five Alpine disciplines, the last two years.

Now that Shiffrin has her first World Cup giant slalom win, many will wonder when she makes her debut in a World Cup speed event, likely a super-G. She has said she would like to do so before the World Championships in Colorado in February. Her giant slalom comfort would play a role in when she added super-G.

”Soelden is always like a see-where-I-am kind of a race,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going for the [crystal] globes [that go to season-long discipline and overall champions], as many as I can.”

The men race in Soelden on Sunday. U.S. Olympic champion Ted Ligety eyes his fourth straight season-opening win in Soelden.

The women’s World Cup continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 15. Shiffrin won in Levi last year and received a reindeer as a prize.

Men’s Alpine skiing World Cup preview

Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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