Mikaela Shiffrin makes podium in season opener

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Mikaela Shiffrin finished second to Italian Federica Brignone in the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.

Shiffrin, the Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, was seeking her first solo World Cup giant slalom victory but finished .85 of a second behind Brignone after two combined runs on the Rettenbach glacier.

“I had more confidence than I have had in a [giant slalom] before, so I think it’s a good place to start,” Shiffrin said in a press conference. “I was nervous. The last couple of weeks I’ve been more and more nervous each day. Then the past, about yesterday and today, all of a sudden it was like I’m sick of being nervous. I just want to ski well.”

Shiffrin tied for the win in Soelden last year with World Cup overall champion Anna Fenninger, who is out for the season with knee injuries following a training crash earlier this week.

Brignone, who made the first of her seven previous World Cup podiums at age 19 in 2009, took her first career World Cup win. She was fastest in the first run, .95 ahead of Shiffrin, and held on with the ninth-fastest second run.

“I’m grown up,” Brignone said in a finish-area interview.

Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather was third followed by Swiss Lara Gut. Weirather and Gut could challenge Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn for the World Cup overall title, the biggest prize this season with no Olympics or World Championships.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to win the overall globe,” Shiffrin said. “But I think this year is a little bit of a gauge to see where I can stack up. Obviously today is a really good start. … It’s a little bit early to tell.”

Vonn, a four-time World Cup overall champion, opted not to race Soelden after skiing on snow in Austria on Thursday and Friday for the first time since fracturing an ankle in an August training crash. She’s expected to debut this season in the next giant slalom in Aspen, Colo., on Nov. 28.

The men’s season opener in Soelden, featuring Olympic and World champion Ted Ligety, is Sunday.

The women’s World Cup continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 14.

“After an Olympic gold medal and a couple of World Championships gold medals, I feel like I can kind of relax a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t have pressure like I have to win a big event.”

MORE ALPINE SKIING: Men’s season preview

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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