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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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Iran banned from judo for instructing athlete to withdraw rather than face Israel opponent

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Iran has been banned from international judo for instructing one of its athletes to withdraw from August’s world championships rather than face an Israeli judoka.

The International Judo Federation said Iran authorities instructing Saeid Mollaei to withdraw rather than face Israeli judoka Sagi Muki was “a serious breach and gross violation” of its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

IJF spokesman Vlad Marinescu said any ban won’t apply to the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because it’s the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the Iranian Judo Federation, which formally enters the Olympic team.

“We have been informed by IJF that they will launch a proper procedure giving all concerned parties the right to be heard,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said. “Should the issue become an Olympic issue we will take the result of this procedure into consideration.”

An IJF disciplinary commission said it “has a strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct” given its history of similar actions with its athletes potentially facing Israelis.

Mollaei, a 2018 World champion, said he was afraid to return to Iran after disobeying those orders at worlds. He competed anyway but lost one round before a potential final with Muki.

“I want to compete wherever I can,” Mollaei said in a statement from the IJF. “I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life.

“I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid.”

The IJF said it would help Mollaei prepare for next year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo. If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes.

Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis, which the country does not recognize. The IJF has said Iranians have thrown matches and used “questionable injuries” to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei’s case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Salehi Amiri pledging to “fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

Back in August, Iranian Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar accused the IJF of trying to “create problems” with Mollaei, the IRNA news agency reported. He said Iran will send a protest letter to the IOC.

Iranian team manager Majid Zareian also criticized the IJF, saying “everything was set in advance to put Mollaei against a participant from (Israel).”

“They did not allow me to be present next to my athlete in exercise salon,” Zareian said. “After the competitions they changed hotel of Mollaei without my permission, against the regulations.”

He denied reports Iranian authorities had put pressure on Mollaei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Israel, judo federation hail letter from Iran; Tehran silent

Jacarra Winchester, after foe bites her, wins first wrestling world title

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Jacarra Winchester missed the Rio Olympic wrestling trials after tearing her knee playing soccer. She missed a medal at the 2018 World Championships after a semifinal-winning takedown was reversed.

There was no denying her on Wednesday.

Winchester, who picked up wrestling a decade ago as a high school junior, became the first American to earn a medal at the worlds in Kazakhstan this week. And it was gold.

She came back to beat Japanese Nanami Irie 5-3 in the final of the 55kg division, a weight class that is not on the Olympic program. Winchester must move to 53kg or 57kg next year.

But for now she can celebrate quite a journey. At 26, she’s one of the older wrestlers to become a first-time world champion. She believed she had what it took last year, when a reversed call kept her from the final and she subsequently lost a bronze-medal match.

Winchester, who has problems sleeping, said she replayed the end of that semifinal in her head ever since.

“There’s no reason why I should have gotten beat,” she said Wednesday. “Clearly I have what I need on the mat. I just need to change my mindset. … Just knowing you’re the best, pushing yourself and not letting anything get to me.”

That helped in Tuesday’s semifinals, where Winchester said her Turkish opponent bit her, pulled her hair and twisted her fingers. Winchester, who grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, said that when she started wrestling she had no Olympic goals.

“I had a mindset of I’m not a quitter,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Adeline Gray reached Thursday’s 76kg final, where she will try to become the first American to earn five world titles.

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