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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Bradie Tennell trails at Skate America after rare error

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Bradie Tennell burst onto the podium at 2017 Skate America by nailing all 15 of her jumps. She missed on her first jumping pass at the same event Saturday and sits in fifth place going into Sunday’s free skate.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara topped the short program with 73.86 points, looking to be the first woman since Yuna Kim to repeat as Skate America champion. Countrywoman Kaori Sakomoto, runner-up at last year’s Skate America, is again in second place, 2.57 behind.

Tennell, the U.S. champion and top American at the Olympics (ninth) and worlds (sixth), trails by 12.14.

She struggled with her opening triple Lutz-triple loop combination, managing just a single loop on the back end. It’s a new combo for the 20-year-old, one that only Olympic champion Alina Zagitova performed last season among senior women.

“It’s very, very rarely does that happen,” Tennell told Andrea Joyce on NBC Sports Gold. “I think I just hesitated a little bit, but these things happen. We’re all human. It’s not going to happen tomorrow.”

The Skate America free skate airs live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Sunday.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Tennell is the marquee U.S. female skater of the moment. Olympians Ashley WagnerPolina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu are taking the Grand Prix season off. Gracie Gold is coming back in two weeks but hasn’t competed in nearly two years. The other active Olympian, Karen Chen, just withdrew from her first Grand Prix next month with a foot injury.

Only ardent skating fans knew of Tennell at this time last year.

She had been sixth and ninth at the previous two U.S. Championships and wouldn’t make her Grand Prix debut until last season’s Skate America on Thanksgiving weekend. There, she posted the top score by a U.S. woman in a year and a half, earned bronze and became a clear favorite to make the three-woman Olympic team.

Though Tennell made uncharacteristic jumping errors in PyeongChang and at worlds, she opened this season by beating Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia at a lower-level event in Canada last month.

Medvedeva and Zagitova make their Grand Prix season debuts the next two weeks.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Nathan Chen wins Skate America by largest margin in history

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Nathan Chen scaled back the quadruple jumps, yet still won Skate America by the largest margin in the event’s history.

Chen, on a fall recess from Yale freshman classes, totaled 280.57 points between Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate, prevailing by 41.06 points over a field lacking any other Olympic or world medalists. It’s the largest gap in any discipline at Skate America under the 16-year-old points system.

It’s also the world’s top score on the young season. Yet Chen attempted four quads total in Everett, Wash., down from the eight he tried at the Olympics, to ease into the season.

“It’s a great start for me,” Chen told Andrea Joyce on NBCSN after landing three quads in a clean free skate. “I definitely had sort of lower expectations coming into this event, just because I’m in a completely new situation in life. … Watered down my programs a little bit, but I think it was definitely appropriate.”

Chen was a disappointing fifth in PyeongChang, then won the world title a month later by the largest margin in history.

With Saturday’s victory, Chen tied the U.S. men’s record of four Grand Prix series titles (Jeremy AbbottTodd EldredgeJohnny Weir, though Eldredge won more Grand Prix-level events before the series debuted in 1995).

The 19-year-old flies back to New Haven for school, returning to the Grand Prix during Thanksgiving break for Internationaux de France. That field includes two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China and Jason Brown, the top American from the Sochi Olympics.

Chen’s biggest competition are Japanese Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. He would not face them until December’s Grand Prix Final at the earliest.

U.S. bronze medalist Vincent Zhou, sixth at the Olympics, was fifth at Skate America. The 17-year-old landed five quads between two programs but was dinged for several under-rotations.

Skate America continues later Saturday with the women’s short program, featuring U.S. champion Bradie Tennell.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Earlier Saturday, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the pairs’ title by the largest margin at a Grand Prix in four years. The two-time world medalists totaled 204.85 points — 25.87 ahead of fellow Russians Alisa Efimova and Aleksandr Korovin — and topped the free skate by 16.27.

Tarasova and Morozov were fourth in PyeongChang but are the top returning active pair. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing in a Grand Prix.

Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot are on an indefinite break. Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong haven’t competed since the Games with Sui recovering from a stress fracture in her foot. Bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada retired.

Americans finished third (Ashley Cain, Timothy LeDuc), fourth (Olympians Alexa Scimeca Knierim, Chris Knierim) and sixth (Nica Digerness, Danny Neudecker), extending a drought of 12 years without a Grand Prix title for a U.S. pair.

The three teams combined for falls in five of their six programs. After, the Knierims said they split from coach Savchenko.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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