Grant Hackett fails to make Australian Olympic team in comeback

Grant Hackett
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Seven-time Olympic medalist Grant Hackett‘s bid for a fourth Olympics after a seven-year retirement ended at the Australian Olympic trials Friday.

Hackett, 35, finished 11th in the semifinals of the 200m freestyle, one day after he placed fourth in the 400m freestyle. Full Australian trials results are here.

He needed to make the eight-man 200m free final and finish sixth or finish second in the 400m free to become the oldest Australian Olympic swimmer of all time.

“It’s disappointing, but I gave it a shot,” Hackett said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I was honest about my preparation and the ups and downs I had. The 400 yesterday really took it out of me. I felt great in the [preliminary] heat, but I didn’t have the fitness to keep bouncing back.

“I can get back to my normal life now.”

Hackett’s comeback was successful last year, when he finished fourth in the 200m free at the Australian Championships to make the World Championships team in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

He led off the preliminary heat relay at Worlds and wasn’t selected for the final, where Australia took bronze, still earning Hackett his 19th career Worlds medal. He debuted at Worlds in 1998 at age 17.

Hackett followed Kieren Perkins as Australia’s marquee man in its coveted race, the 1500m freestyle, taking gold in 2000 and 2004 and nearly becoming the first swimmer to win the same Olympic event three times in 2008. He took 1500m free silver in Beijing, his last international competition until the 2015 Worlds.

Four years ago, three of his teammates from Australian swimming’s golden era — Ian ThorpeMichael Klim and Geoff Huegill — all failed in Olympic comeback attempts, too.

MORE: Yannick Agnel can swim 200m free in Rio

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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