Mikaela Shiffrin, Emma Lundell

Mikaela Shiffrin shares podium with girl with leukemia

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Mikaela Shiffrin moved closer to clinching her third straight World Cup slalom season title with an easy victory in Are, Sweden, on Saturday.

Shiffrin, the Olympic and World champion who turned 20 on Friday, prevailed by 1.41 seconds over two runs. Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova took second, followed by Czech Sarka Strachova.

Shiffrin moved 90 points ahead in the World Cup slalom season standings with one race left at the World Cup Finals in Meribel, France, next week. Shiffrin will earn her third straight season title if she finishes 15th or better in Meribel, or if Swede Frida Hansdotter does not win.

She hopes to become the first woman in 20 years to win three straight World Cup slalom season titles.

Shiffrin shared the podium with Emma Lundell, a 13-year-old Swede fighting leukemia whom Shiffrin first met after her maiden World Cup win in 2012. Lundell brought Shiffrin to tears last year.

“I feel that beats anything I can do on the race hill,” Shiffrin said of Lundell. “So she deserves to be on the top step of the podium.”

Lundell’s health has improved so much since 2012 that she’s no longer taking medicines, according to The Associated Press.

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Mikaela Shiffrin and Emma Lundell share the podium and Shiffrin’s bouquet. (Getty Images)

“[Shiffrin] has meant so much to me,” Lundell said, according to the AP. “It was huge for me that a big star like her would see me. It gave me the strength to continue fighting.”

In the final run Saturday, Shiffrin gave up about half of her first-run lead of .92 to Zuzulova midway through the course.

“Sometimes I hear the announcers when I’m skiing, and I thought I was behind,” Shiffrin said. “So I was like, ‘Go faster! Go faster!'”

But she made it all back up — and then some — in the bottom section to secure one of the easier victories of the 14 in her career.

Slovenian Tina Maze squandered an opportunity to retake the World Cup overall lead, finishing 16th. Austrian Anna Fenninger goes into the four-race World Cup Finals with a 30-point edge over Maze and is likely to win her second straight World Cup overall title.

In men’s action Saturday, France’s Alexis Pinturault won a giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, by .68 over Austrian Marcel Hirscher. Hirscher clinched the giant slalom season title over Olympic and World champion Ted Ligety, who was fourth Saturday. Ligety had won the World Cup title the previous two seasons.

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Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.