Mikaela Shiffrin eyes return from injury

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Olympic and World slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin expects to return this season after partially tearing her right MCL and suffering a bone bruise in a Dec. 12 crash, she told NBC Sports’ Steve Porino in an interview that aired on NBCSN on Saturday.

Shiffrin, who did not require surgery, previously said three days after the crash that a return this season was “unlikely,” according to the Denver Post.

But three weeks of rehab later Shiffrin was in higher spirits. She said the original timetable told to her was an absence of four to 12 weeks.

“I swear I could go skiing today, that’s how I feel,” Shiffrin told Porino. “At least my mental game is there. … I’d say it’s gone from unlikely to very possible that I can race. Like, from my perspective, [aside from] the doctors and parents and physios and everyone else’s side, I think I’ll be racing before the end of the season. The bummer about this injury is that you’re really in the dark, basically the whole time [about when you can return].”

Shiffrin captured the World Cup slalom title each of the last three seasons to go along with 2013 and 2015 World Championships and 2014 Olympic gold.

In this season’s slalom standings, she trails Swedish leader Frida Hansdotter by 165 points after five of 11 scheduled races.

The next two slaloms are scheduled for Tuesday and Friday. If Shiffrin misses those, Hansdotter, with podium results, can all but assure that Shiffrin would have no chance to win a fourth straight World Cup slalom season title.

Before her warm-up crash Dec. 12, she was a favorite to challenge Lindsey Vonn for the World Cup overall title. Now, Vonn is chasing Swiss Lara Gut for that crown.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn ties World Cup record in domination fashion

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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