Mikaela Shiffrin takes silver in worlds giant slalom

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Two years ago, Mikaela Shiffrin believed she would probably never earn a world championships medal in the giant slalom.

On Thursday, she took silver with the fastest second run in the field in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where she had failed to complete a GS in three previous World Cup stops in 2012, 2013 and 2016.

Shiffrin finished .34 behind French world champion Tessa Worley after two runs. Italian Sofia Goggia earned bronze.

Full Results | Race Replay

Shiffrin earned the first U.S. medal in the event since Julia Mancuso‘s bronze in 2005. The last American to win the world championships giant slalom was Diann Roffe in 1985.

It bodes well as Shiffrin goes for her third straight world title in the slalom on Saturday (3:45 and 7 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live), where she is a heavy favorite.

Shiffrin has won just about every major slalom crown the last four years, all the while steadily improving in giant slalom. However, Shiffrin experienced a setback at the 2015 World Championships near her home in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

She was 13th in the first giant slalom run there and ended up eighth overall. She had been sixth in the 2013 Worlds giant slalom (at age 17) and fifth at the 2014 Olympics.

“If you asked me in Beaver Creek at world championships if I would ever medal in a GS, I was so far out in my skiing, I was so mad about my skiing that I probably would have said no,” Shiffrin said Thursday. “Two years later, here I am.”

Shiffrin was in third place after the first run in the morning, .72 behind the pre-race favorite Worley and .24 back of Goggia. She said she felt tentative, thinking about spots on the course where she had fallen in years’ past.

“I left something out on the hill,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN.

Shiffrin, known for taking naps between her first and second runs, couldn’t take her mind off being in medal position in the four hours between runs Thursday.

“You don’t want to lose this chance, it’s right there,” Shiffrin said she thought to herself. “I tried to think of it like a completely new run, just to see if I could win the run.”

She did, two tenths faster than anybody else. Worley, the last skier to go, erred early in her descent but had enough cushion to hang on for her second world title in the GS. The Frenchwoman, who barely eclipses 5 feet tall, won the 2013 World title but missed the Sochi Olympics with a torn ACL.

Shiffrin tacks her world medal onto her three career World Cup giant slalom victories, to go along with her 25 World Cup slalom wins. Shiffrin is also poised to win this season’s World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Not bad for a 21-year-old.

“I don’t really feel like a star,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit clueless about that. When people say it, it feels like they’re talking about somebody else.”

A total of 98 skiers entered Thursday’s race, the last being 37-year-old Haitian Celine Marti, who was 41.37 seconds behind after the first run, failing to qualify for the second run.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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