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Mikaela Shiffrin set to clinch World Cup overall title

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Mikaela Shiffrin is on the verge of clinching the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in Alpine skiing. It should become official on Saturday.

Shiffrin will clinch at the World Cup Finals slalom in Aspen, Colo., if she finishes in the top 15, or if Slovenian Ilka Stuhec does not win. NBC Sports will air coverage (broadcast schedule here).

This is a near certainty, given Shiffrin has won seven of nine slaloms this season, and Stuhec has only finished one slalom in her career (placing 10th). In fact, Stuhec may skip Saturday’s slalom altogether.

Stuhec stayed in mathematical contention by finishing first and second in the first two of four World Cup Finals races this week. The Aspen series is the conclusion of a 37-race season that began in October.

Shiffrin has won 11 of those races, four more than anybody else, plus three-peated as world championships gold medalist in the slalom.

Shiffrin, who turned 22 on Monday, will become the youngest men’s or women’s overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2003.

Previous Americans to take the overall title were Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

Shiffrin could go into the 2018 Olympics with a chance to become the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at a single Winter Games, given she has won World Cup races in slalom, giant slalom and super combined this season.

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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