Mikaela Shiffrin’s overall standings lead trimmed again

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Mikaela Shiffrin placed fifth in a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday and saw her World Cup overall standings lead drop to 130 points. The lead may disappear this weekend.

“I had a big struggle with my grip today,” Shiffrin said. “It was really, really bizarre because I’ve never had that kind of feeling where I wasn’t confident standing on my edges. We used the same setup and the same tuning that really works on this kind of snow. For some reason today, it was really, really off from the first gate.”

Shiffrin was ninth after the morning run in Kronplatz before improving to finish 1.09 seconds behind Italian winner Federica Brignone after two runs. France’s Tessa Worley was runner-up, .55 behind, followed by Italian Marta Bassino.

Shiffrin continued a consistent giant slalom season, though. She has placed sixth or better in all seven races this season, including two wins, and ranks second in the discipline’s season standings.

Shiffrin goes into the world championships next month as a favorite for medals in both slalom and giant slalom, a double that hasn’t been done by an American since 1982.

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Swiss Lara Gut was fourth on Tuesday to trim five points off Shiffrin’s overall standings lead. Gut is the defending World Cup overall champion, holder of the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

This year’s overall title chase is essentially a duel between Gut and Shiffrin, the latter to possibly become the third U.S. woman to take the crown (Tamara McKinneyLindsey Vonn).

Shiffrin has led the standings since November but could cede it this weekend with a downhill and super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Gut is stronger in those disciplines — averaging 70 points per race — while Shiffrin is selective on which downhills and super-G she enters.

Shiffrin had planned to enter Sunday’s super-G, but it’s still to be decided for sure, according to the U.S. Ski Team.

Even if Gut wins both of this weekend’s races, Shiffrin should take the overall standings lead back at a Stockholm slalom next Tuesday, the final race before the World Cup takes a break for the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

The first five races after worlds in February are a downhill, two super-Gs and two combineds, a series that favors Gut. That will be the Swiss’ big opportunity to put distance between herself and Shiffrin before the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in mid-March.

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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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