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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Michael Johnson took Olympic mindset in stroke recovery

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Michael Johnson‘s first walk, reportedly three days after suffering a stroke in the summer, was 200 meters down a hospital corridor.

“It took about 15 minutes,” Johnson said in a BBC video, detailing his full recovery in recent interviews.

Johnson, who at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics swept the 200m (in a world-record 19.32 seconds) and the 400m, suffered what he called “a mini stroke” after a home workout in late August.

Johnson felt not pain but tingling leaving his home gym and underwent a 20-minute MRI. The 50-year-old, who worked out regularly and was in otherwise great physical shape, almost fell rising out of the machine.

“Couldn’t put any weight on left side, no longer could really move my left leg,” Johnson said in the BBC interview. “The numbness of my left arm, which was sort of mild at the beginning and up to that point, was really intense at that point. I couldn’t feel a lot of my arm. You immediately start to think about, what’s my life going to be like going forward?”

There was no immediate answer.

“You start to think about loved ones — is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life?” Johnson said, according to the Telegraph. “Am I going to be able to walk again? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone? You’re forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality.”

He began physical therapy early the next week. After that first walk, the distance equivalent of a half-lap of the track that he owned in the 1990s, he told his wife, “I will make a full recovery, and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before,” according to the Telegraph.

Within two weeks, Johnson was backing that up. He tweeted a photo of himself on Sept. 13, his 51st birthday, grimacing while lifting a square-shaped weight with each hand. “Almost back to normal. No days off! Even today. My birthday!” the caption read.

On Sept. 27, Johnson tweeted that it had been grueling, but he relearned to walk and made a full recovery.

“Once I knew that I will make a full recovery, and once I started to believe that, it’s very similar to the type of situation that I experienced as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, then all of a sudden suffering a pulled hamstring,” said Johnson, who fell to the track in the 2000 Olympic Trials 200m final with an upper left leg injury, then won the 400m at his last Games in Sydney. “The reward, in this particular situation, was going to be even greater, was going to be able to walk again, regaining my mobility, regaining my independence.”

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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