‘Half bear’ Mikaela Shiffrin rallies, repeats as World slalom champion

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin naps regularly, and it looked like she was hibernating about 30 minutes before she skied in the World Championships slalom Saturday afternoon.

She was shown on camera lying on top of snow near the start house on a warm afternoon in Beaver Creek, Colo.

“In fact, I am half a bear,” she joked later, after she said, “I was staring up at the trees and not thinking about anything. I was listening to music.”

The 19-year-old gathered herself and took to the course under the pressure of defending her title, as the favorite, in front of a hometown crowd.

At first, the time splits made it look like she was still groggy. Shiffrin, skiing with a four tenths lead due to her fastest morning run, had lost it all and fallen .03 behind Swede Frida Hansdotter with about 14 seconds left on the course.

“Between the first run and the second run, all I was thinking about was I honestly just have to try to hold my own against Frida,” Shiffrin said of Hansdotter, who has been better in the slalom during the World Cup season.

But Shiffrin flipped the switch on the final portion of the course, making up .37 to win by .34. Hansdotter had to accept silver with Czech Sarka Strachova bagging bronze.

“That took every ounce of my energy to pull myself together towards the bottom, not to blow it,” Shiffrin said, later adding, “Everybody I’ve seen so far said, ‘Wow, you almost killed us.’ I guess that’s the point, to have a good show, right? But it was not purposeful.”

Shiffrin crossed the finish line looking like the drama and the joy were lost on her. She was expression-less.

“I think I was still sleeping,” she joked. “I put a ton of energy out there, especially that last third of the course. I came away with the win, but I had no energy at the finish. I was like, I don’t know what to do.

“It’s always a little bit awkward because I feel like the best racers in history had the most epic finish celebrations. Ted [Ligety]‘s celebration yesterday when he chucked his ski. Lindsey [Vonn] falls on the ground. [Tina] Maze puts her finger in the air. I always watched these celebrations, and I go over it in my mind before the race thinking, how cool would it be if I won this, and then I did something so epic that everybody just starts crying.

“Then I get to the finish and I’m like, hiiiiiiiii. That was really fun. I’m so glad that I’m here and I won. This is fun. It’s a weird thing. I’m kind of a dork.”

Only one other woman since World War II has successfully defended a World slalom title — Croatian legend Janica Kostelic.

Shiffrin, a teenager for one more month, has won every major slalom title the last three seasons — Olympic gold, two World Championships and two World Cup crystal globes. Time and again, she has gone into major championships as the favorite and delivered.

“One of my motivating factors is not to be one of the examples that those authors use in books like choke or mindset or whatever,” Shiffrin said. “They always use examples of the champions who choked at some point, didn’t perform under pressure. I read these books, I’m like, oh gosh, it’s not so easy. Maybe they didn’t choke. Maybe they didn’t feel good that day.”

Shiffrin must carry over her success from Beaver Creek at her next races on the World Cup circuit in February and March to earn a third straight World Cup title. Only one other woman has won three straight World Cup slalom titles — Swiss great Vreni Schneider.

Shiffrin trails Hansdotter by 41 points in the World Cup slalom standings with three races left. Skiers earn 100 points for a win, 80 for second place, 60 for third and on down the line.

But Shiffrin spreads her focus to another discipline — the giant slalom. She won her first World Cup giant slalom race in October but has not recorded a GS victory since and was eighth in the event at the World Championships on Thursday.

“I really hope that in the next couple weeks, before my next race, I get back to my GS and really try to take the next step,” Shiffrin said on NBC. “I’m so close.”

The World Championships conclude with the men’s slalom, including Ted Ligety, on Sunday on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Tearful Shani Davis back on top at World Championships

Wimbledon reverses ban on Russia, Belarus tennis players

Wimbledon Russia

Russian and Belarusian players will be able to compete at Wimbledon as neutral athletes after the All England Club on Friday reversed its ban from last year.

The players must sign declarations of neutrality and comply with “appropriate conditions,” including not expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted,” All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.

The players cannot receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by the states.

Those impacted include Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.

Other tennis tournaments have allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral athletes.

“We also consider alignment between the Grand Slams to be increasingly important in the current tennis environment,” the club said.

The same conditions will apply for Lawn Tennis Association tournaments used by players as grass-court warmups for the sport’s oldest Grand Slam tournament.

The women’s and men’s professional tennis tours last year imposed heavy fines on the LTA and threatened to pull its tournaments. The ATP and WTA had also responded to last year’s ban by not awarding ranking points for Wimbledon — an unprecedented move against the prestigious event.

“There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, The Championships and British tennis,” the club said.

This year’s Wimbledon tournament will start on July 3. The women’s final is scheduled for July 15 and the men’s final on July 16.

The All England Club said the conditions were developed through talks with the British government, the LTA and “international stakeholder bodies in tennis.”

The club’s statement described “personal player declarations” but didn’t provide details. The LTA said the players and support staff “will be required to sign neutrality declarations” similar to those used in other sports.

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2023 World Junior Gymnastics Championships live stream schedule

World Junior Gymnastics Championships

The world junior gymnastics championships individual finals stream live on the International Gymnastics Federation YouTube channel from Friday through Sunday.

Already this week, Japan swept the men’s and women’s team titles in Antalya, Turkey. The U.S. women took silver.

The U.S. women in Friday’s all-around final are Izzy Stassi (qualified fourth) and Jayla Hang (qualified 22nd). The U.S. men in Friday’s all-around final are Kai Uemura (qualified 11th) and David Shamah (qualified 14th).

Americans also advanced to four of this weekend’s apparatus finals: women’s vault (Stassi, Hang), uneven bars (Hezly Rivera) and floor exercise (Rivera, Hang) and men’s still rings (Uemura).

Gymnastics added a biennial junior worlds starting in 2019. The 2021 edition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women ages 14 or 15 and men ages 15 through 18 compete.

The U.S. team in 2019 included future senior world team members Skye Blakely, Kayla DiCello and Konnor McClain.

2023 World Junior Gymnastics Championships Live Stream Schedule

Day Competition Time (ET) Platform
Friday Men’s All-Around 7:30 a.m. FIG YouTube | LIVE STREAM LINK
Women’s All-Around 12 p.m. FIG YouTube | LIVE STREAM LINK
Saturday Apparatus Finals 7 a.m. FIG YouTube | LIVE STREAM LINK
Sunday Apparatus Finals 7 a.m. FIG YouTube | LIVE STREAM LINK

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