Mikaela Shiffrin’s costly mistakes mean missed opportunity

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Mikaela Shiffrin paced to the starting gate of her second giant slalom run in Sestriere, Italy, as the final racer on Saturday. The leader after the first run, the slalom ace could win her first World Cup giant slalom outright.

What’s more, Shiffrin’s rival for the World Cup overall title, Swiss Lara Gut, had an unsatisfactory descent minutes earlier and sat third.

But Shiffrin neither notched the benchmark victory nor padded her standings lead on Gut. She made mistakes near the top of the course, critically needing to correct swiftly to avoid missing a gate.

Shiffrin appeared to know the afternoon’s hopes were lost when she crossed the finish line. She didn’t need to check the scoreboard at the 2006 Olympic venue.

Sixth place, 1.04 seconds behind French winner Tessa Worley. Shiffrin was .05 ahead of Worley after the first run.

FULL RESULTS | RACE REPLAY

Shiffrin has won 22 World Cup races before the age of 22, 21 of them in slalom and one shared giant slalom victory from two years ago. A solo GS win has eluded her, amid a trio of runners-up, two thirds and a string of eight straight top-10s earlier in her young career.

Shiffrin’s standings lead for the World Cup overall title was cut from 28 points to eight points over Gut, last year’s overall winner.

Though Shiffrin figures to add to the lead Sunday, she needs to make the most out of every slalom and giant slalom. Gut’s best races are downhill and super-G, disciplines that litter the second half of the season once the calendar turns over.

On Sunday in Sestriere, Shiffrin hopes to win her 11th straight World Cup slalom (not counting the five she missed due to injury last season).

The record for any women’s World Cup discipline is 11 straight wins, set by Annemarie Moser-Proell in downhill from 1972-74.

Olympic champions Lindsey VonnAnna Veith and Julia Mancuso have yet to make their season debuts, all out due to injuries.

MORE: Franz Klammer stars in commercial with Alpine skiing champions

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated Vreni Schneider won 12 straight slaloms. She won 10 straight, her streak snapped by failing to finish a race.

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”