Mikaela Shiffrin’s bid for third straight win comes up just short (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin will go into the World Championships as the second-best slalom skier this season.

Swede Frida Hansdotter won the final World Cup slalom before Worlds in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday night, increasing her season standings lead over Shiffrin to 41 points after six of nine scheduled races.

On Tuesday, Hansdotter prevailed by .61 of a second over World Cup overall leader Tina Maze.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, placed third in Flachau, .63 behind. Shiffrin improved from eighth place after the first of two runs.

“I wish I charged a little more in the first run,” Shiffrin told media in Flachau, one night after she Googled “how to drive a dirt bike” and then drove one at the public starting bib draw (it stalled twice before she got it going). “I can’t take my foot off the gas and expect to win.”

Hansdotter, who at 29 is 10 years older than Shiffrin, won her first World Cup race this season. Shiffrin won the previous two World Cup slaloms, but Hansdotter has been more consistent this season, finishing no lower than fourth in the six slaloms.

Hansdotter placed fifth in the Sochi Olympic slalom and third at the 2013 World Championships, both won by Shiffrin.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with speed races in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, this weekend, featuring Lindsey Vonn‘s continued pursuit of the record for women’s World Cup wins.

The World Championships are the first two weeks of February in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo.

“I think I have a shot at two medals [at Worlds],” Shiffrin said, referring to the slalom and the giant slalom. “Being at home is kind of liberating for me.”

Bode Miller concerned, hopeful for season debut this week

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.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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