Mikaela Shiffrin wins Maribor slalom, snags World Cup lead in teenage finale (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her 13th World Cup race in her final scheduled start as a teenager, moving into the World Cup slalom standings lead in rainy Maribor, Slovenia, on Sunday.

Shiffrin, who became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in Sochi, prevailed by 1.03 seconds over two runs for her fourth World Cup win this season. Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second, followed by Czech Sarka Strachova.

Shiffrin said she likes skiing in the rain.

“I have really good goggles,” she joked a finish-area interview.

Shiffrin moved into sole possession of third place in World Cup wins by active female skiers. The only ones with more are Lindsey Vonn (64) and Tina Maze (26).

Vonn won the first of those 64 at age 20. Maze had one victory as a teenager. The only female skier with more World Cup wins as a teenager than Shiffrin was Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who took 27 en route to 62 total victories.

Vonn and Maze own wins in all five disciplines, while Shiffrin has only contested two of the five (slalom and giant slalom) and scrapped a plan to add super-G earlier this season when she struggled with her slalom.

“I’m hesitant, I don’t want to rush the super-G because I’m doing pretty well in slalom and [giant slalom] right now,” Shiffrin, who owns one World Cup giant slalom win from October, said in a press conference Sunday. “In my perfect world, I would be winning both slalom and GS consistently and then move into super-G. So, if I go too fast with that, then I won’t get any of it.”

Shiffrin regained her form in the slalom earlier this winter, repeating as World champion two weeks ago and surpassing Swede Frida Hansdotter for the World Cup slalom standings lead Sunday. She went from 41 points behind to 30 points ahead of Hansdotter, who was ninth Sunday.

There are two World Cup slaloms remaining — March 13 in Are, Sweden (Shiffrin’s 20th birthday) and in Meribel, France at the World Cup Finals one week later.

Shiffrin is trying to win a third straight World Cup slalom season title. The last woman to do that was Vreni Schneider, who took the last of her six World Cup titles in 1995. The only women since 1996 to capture three straight titles in any discipline are Vonn and six-time Olympic medalist Janica Kostelic.

Also Sunday, Austrian Matthias Mayer prevailed in a super-G in Saalbach, Austria. Mayer, the Olympic downhill champion, won for the second straight day. France’s Adrien Theaux was second, followed by Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud. Travis Ganong was the top American in ninth.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with two super-Gs and a super combined in Bansko, Bulgaria, next weekend. Vonn is expected to race, if healthy following her Saturday fall.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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