Mikaela Shiffrin wins comeback race, concedes World Cup title

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A nervous, jittery Mikaela Shiffrin returned to racing Monday, two months after suffering the first knee injury of her career.

The questions:

Did she come back too early from tearing an MCL and suffering a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash, her first time tumbling into fencing?

Why ski at all this winter, with no real hope of capturing her fourth straight World Cup slalom season title?

This is her job, Shiffrin has stressed, and she can’t afford to take extra time off.

And when the 20-year-old from Colorado got back into the start gate in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, on Monday morning, she went back to work.

“I came in today sort of blind,” Shiffrin said. “Close your eyes and go.”

Shiffrin won her sixth straight World Cup slalom race, in her first start in the discipline since Nov. 29.

She was .27 of a second better than the field in the morning run.

“I was nervous,” Shiffrin said between morning and afternoon runs. “It’s good to have my coaches and my mom and everybody here, and they’re all very reassuring. Until you know for sure you’re in there, it’s hard to not be nervous.”

She raced last in the afternoon, forced to navigate a course made slushy and rutted by the 29 women who went before her. That’s not uncommon for the world’s best slalom skier the last three years.

Fog also rolled in and out, but the mountain cleared for Shiffrin. She said having “a little bit” of visibility saved her.

“I haven’t skied in anything like that,” Shiffrin said in a finish-area interview. “I was like, here goes nothing.”

Shiffrin managed it well, crossing the finish line with .45 to spare to notch her 18th career World Cup victory.

Shiffrin, not known for exuberant celebrations, came to a stop and bowed her head into her gloves for a moment before being congratulated by second-place Nastasia Noens of France and third-place Marie-Michele Gagnon of Canada.

Full results from Monday are here.

Shiffrin does not plan to race the next World Cup slalom, a parallel city event in Stockholm on Feb. 23. If she doesn’t contest it, she is mathematically eliminated from winning her fourth straight World Cup slalom season title.

Even if she does race Stockholm, a comeback to take the trophy (a crystal globe) after missing five slaloms would be extremely unlikely.

“The slalom globe’s out,” Shiffrin said in a press conference, laughing. “I think everybody’s wondering kind of what my goals are the rest of the season.”

The women’s World Cup season continues with a downhill and super-G in Italy this weekend.

After her win, Shiffrin said she may next race a super-G in Soldeu, Andorra, on Feb. 27, but focused more on the next giant slalom in Jasna, Slovakia, on March 6.

“I’m going to focus on [giant slalom] a little bit now, for a few days at least, and try to see how quickly I can get back the feeling in GS,” she said. “Jasna, see if I can get on the podium both races [the GS and a March 7 slalom]. For the rest of the season, I’m just looking to see how many points I can get overall, not necessarily in one single event.”

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Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

Chloe Dygert
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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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