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Mikaela Shiffrin beaten after slow first run in night slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin couldn’t overcome a slow (by her standards) first run and tied for third in a World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday night.

The youngest Olympic slalom champion was .78 of a second shy of Swedish winner Frida Hansdotter after two runs. Shiffrin won five of the first six World Cup slaloms this season going into Tuesday.

Shiffrin was in fifth place after the first run in Flachau, 1.38 seconds behind Hansdotter, then had the fastest second run by one tenth.

“I just didn’t ski fast enough,” Shiffrin said after her first run. “And that’s pretty much it.”

RACE RESULTS | RUN 2 REPLAY

Olympic champions Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso could race for the first time this season at the next World Cup stop in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, this weekend, starting with a downhill training run Thursday.

Vonn, coming back from a broken arm suffered in a Nov. 11 training crash, last raced Feb. 28. Mancuso, who had November 2015 hip surgery, last raced March 7, 2015.

NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will live stream racing Saturday (downhill) and Sunday (super combined) mornings. Shiffrin said she definitely won’t be racing the downhill but may do the super combined, which is one super-G run and one slalom run.

On Tuesday, Shiffrin moved 365 points ahead in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, through 19 of a scheduled 37 races.

That lead, which is comfortable now, will be cut into significantly before February’s world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and leading into the season-ending World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in March.

That’s because the early season was weighed heavily with Shiffrin’s best events — slalom and giant slalom. Speed races of downhill and super-G make up the majority of the remaining schedule.

Defending World Cup overall champion Lara Gut is stronger in speed events and is the main threat to Shiffrin’s lead over the next two months. The Swiss Gut is in second place in the standings but arguably still the favorite for the overall title.

“One of my big goals that I want to accomplish is the overall,” Shiffrin, who could become the third U.S. woman to take the biggest annual prize in ski racing (Tamara McKinney, Vonn), said after her previous race Sunday, a slalom victory. “And I don’t know if it happens this year, but eventually that will be a big goal. … Right now, my focus is more world championships, but, eventually it will be more overall, probably.”

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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