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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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”