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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Boglarka Kapas, world champion swimmer, tests positive for coronavirus

Boglarka Kapas
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Boglarka Kapas, the Hungarian swimmer and world 200m butterfly champion, said she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I don’t have any symptoms yet, and that’s why it’s important for you to know that even if you feel healthy you can spread the virus,” was posted on her social media. “Please be careful, stay at home and stay healthy.”

Kapas said her first test was negative but a second test showed she had the virus. She was staying in quarantine at home for two weeks.

Kapas, 26, won the 200m fly at last summer’s world championships by passing Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters. She clocked 2:06.78 to prevail by .17 of a second.

Kapas also took bronze in the Rio Olympic 800m freestyle won by Katie Ledecky.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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