Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin’s return unknown after MCL tear

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Over the next few weeks, Mikaela Shiffrin will slalom between rest and rehab.

Usually so fast on a race course, the Olympic and World slalom champion is taking things at a conservative pace as she recovers from a torn knee ligament and painful bone bruise. There’s no timetable for her return to skiing, either.

But there is some promising news: She won’t need surgery. Just rest and rehab. Lots and lots of it after tearing the medial collateral ligament in her right knee during a wipeout while preparing for a giant slalom last Saturday in Are, Sweden.

”It’s nice for me to know that, as far as everyone’s said, I’ll be able to ski before the snow melts,” Shiffrin said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. ”Getting back to racing is another story. It’s tough to make any sort of predictions about when I’ll be able to race again.

”If I don’t feel like I can get in the starting gate of a race and attack the hill, I’m not going to.”

There’s a possibility the skier from Eagle-Vail, Colo., could return to the slopes for the World Cup Finals in March. Now that would be quite a birthday present for Shiffrin, who turns 21 on March 13.

”You can only take it week by week first, and then day by day,” Shiffrin’s manager, Kilian Albrecht, said. ”Obviously, there is hope that she can return as the season is still pretty long. But unfortunately all of the tech races are now, which is not good as she will for sure miss a lot of the races.”

Shiffrin was hurt when she crashed during a free skiing session on the competition hill. She said she was making a right-footed turn when she hit a patch of icy snow. Her right ski slipped and then her knee buckled, before hitting some grippy snow that caused her to hyperextend her knee and skid into the protective netting.

As her coaches untangled her, Shiffrin feared the worst.

”I was like, ‘I have to get up, and ski down,”’ she said. ”That was my first thought in the first 10 seconds when I got untangled. But I was sitting there on the side of the hill and there was no way I was even walking. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what.”

She flew back to Colorado for more tests on her knee, which confirmed she had a bone bruise and MCL tear.

”I’m lucky that I don’t need surgery and I’m lucky that there are no other implications,” Shiffrin said. ”It could’ve been really bad. You know Lindsey Vonn‘s knee injuries and how long it took her to come back, and countless other athletes. They all come back, but it takes a solid two years. I’m not looking at a timeline like that at all.”

She was considered the top contender to Vonn in the World Cup overall race, especially with Tina Maze taking the season off and defending champ Anna Fenninger sidelined with a knee injury.

That’s all but vanished for Shiffrin.

”It’s pretty heartbreaking because I think everybody in the back of their minds, including me, was thinking a 20-year-old being able to battle it out probably with Lindsey Vonn for the overall — how that’s pretty spectacular, no matter who comes out on top,” said Shiffrin, who won the slalom at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and at the last two World Championships. ”That’s how it was looking until this happened. It’s definitely a bummer.”

Shiffrin was in the midst of a stellar start, winning the opening two slaloms this season in Aspen by staggering margins, including one by 3.07 seconds, the largest margin of victory for the women’s discipline in World Cup history. She also made her speed debut in Lake Louise, Alberta, this month and finished a respectable 15th during a super-G race won by Vonn.

While sidelined, Shiffrin said she plans to take some online classes in personal finance – ”I’d like to know a little more about investing,” she said – and improve her guitar playing. She also will go through rehab three times a day, even posting a video on social media Tuesday of her pedaling on a stationary bike while wearing a brace.

”I’m pretty positive right now. I’m not in any pain or anything,” Shiffrin said. ”I don’t have a lot of swelling, so that’s all a good sign. That makes me positive.”

MORE: Vonn wins 71st World Cup race after Shiffrin injury

Good news from physician visit yesterday-  No additional injury from what we already knew. I have bone bruising and an…

Posted by Mikaela Shiffrin on Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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