Mikaela Shiffrin clinches fourth World Cup slalom season title

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Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her fourth World Cup slalom season title before she left the gate for Saturday’s race. With that pressure off, Shiffrin went on to win for the 11th time in 23 starts this season.

Shiffrin prevailed by 1.03 seconds after two slalom runs in Squaw Valley, Calif., which is hosting its first World Cup races since 1969. Czech Sarka Strachova was second, followed by Austrian Bernadette Schild.

Swiss Wendy Holdener was fastest in the first run by .02 over Shiffrin, and led Shiffrin by .12 at the last split before the finish. But Holdener fell in the final few gates.

“In a way, I feel like she gave up the win,” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t necessarily take the win from her.”

Shiffrin made a mistake near the top of the course but gained considerable time on Strachova in the final several gates. Even if Holdener stayed upright, Shiffrin likely would have won.

“I’m not proud of my skiing,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN. “It was very scrappy, and I’m proud of the fight, but it’s not my best skiing. But to fight my way to the finish and come away with another win today, sometimes it’s better to do that than to feel like I skied unbelievable.”

Full Results | Run 2 Replay

Shiffrin’s closest standings rival, Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, fell in her first of two slalom runs, which eliminated her already slim chances of overtaking Shiffrin in the standings by the end of the season next weekend.

Shiffrin matched legends Alberto TombaMarlies Schild and Marcel Hirscher with four World Cup slalom season titles. Three skiers have captured more — Ingemar Stenmark (eight), Vreni Schneider (six) and Erika Hess (five).

Shiffrin now leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, by a nearly insurmountable 378 points with four races left. Winners receive 100 points per race.

Shiffrin can mathematically clinch her first overall title next week at the World Cup Finals, which begin with a downhill on Wednesday in Aspen, Colo.

Already the youngest Olympic slalom champion ever, Shiffrin is set to become the youngest male or female World Cup overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2003. She turns 22 years old on Monday.

“I’m very close to having the overall, but at the same time it makes me feel like I have to earn it even more,” Shiffrin said, noting that her top rival early in the season, 2016 overall champion Lara Gut, is out with a season-ending knee injury. “It’s something that I feel like I haven’t quite earned yet, even though I have it almost on paper. It adds a little bit of pressure almost.”

Four Americans have won the overall title — Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

Shiffrin is now at 31 World Cup wins, ranking third all-time among Americans behind Vonn (77 wins) and Miller (33 wins).

Her 11 wins this season tie for the second-most by an American in one season, behind Vonn’s 12 in 2012.

With one giant slalom and one slalom left next week, she could reach 13 victories, which would tie for second all-time among all male and female skiers in one season.

Shiffrin’s continued slalom domination and breakthrough giant slalom and super combined wins this season make her a threat next year to become the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at one Winter Olympics in any sport.

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U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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