Mikaela Shiffrin sixth in last race of season; eyes speed events in 2018

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Mikaela Shiffrin completed her best season yet with a sixth-place finish in the World Cup Finals giant slalom in Aspen, Colo., on Sunday. Then she looked ahead to expanding her Olympic program.

Shiffrin, the World Cup overall champion, ended up 2.14 seconds behind Italian Federica Brignone at the 37th and last race of the season. Shiffrin was in second place after the first run but struggled in the second run, going 15th-fastest.

“I’m not very satisfied,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN. “I didn’t take enough aggression when I really needed it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s good motivation for next year.”

Italy swept the first three places. Brignone was followed by Sofia Goggia and Marta Bassino.

France’s Tessa Worley placed fifth, wrapping up the giant slalom season title by 85 points over Shiffrin. Shiffrin also took second to Worley in the giant slalom at the world championships in February.

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This season, Shiffrin was once again the world’s best slalom skier, improved to become the second-best giant slalom skier and won her only super combined start.

“I’ve been dreaming about the overall globe,” Shiffrin said. “I just wanted to be the best skier in the world. When you look at the definition of the best skier in the world, the overall globe pops up.”

At 22, she is the youngest World Cup overall champion since Janica Kostelic in 2003, and the fifth American to take home the sport’s biggest annual prize (Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode MillerLindsey Vonn).

Her 11 World Cup wins are joint-second-most by an American man or woman in one season, trailing only Vonn, who took 12 in the 2011-12 season.

Three medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics are possible. One U.S. woman has captured three medals in one Winter Olympics — speed skater Sheila Young in 1976.

The 2017-18 World Cup season will likely start with the traditional opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, in late October.

Shiffrin’s goal next year is to improve in the speed events of super-G and downhill, racing at least one speed event in PyeongChang. She has made five career World Cup super-G starts and two downhills, with a best finish of fourth.

“I still don’t feel like the best skier in the world,” Shiffrin said. “I feel like the best slalom skier, one of the best GS skiers, and I have some work to do in speed. Maybe someday I’ll be the best skier in everything, and then I can really sit back and say, OK, now I’ve done it. But I don’t know if that day will ever come.”

A challenge will be stamina. Shiffrin started 25 of 37 World Cup races this season, skipping the majority of the speed races. Even with that schedule, she noted fatigue in Aspen this weekend.

“You just want to take a nap for three days straight,” Shiffrin said Sunday.

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Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic

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The 2017 World Track and Field Championships left questions that could carry over into 2019 and 2020. What does Allyson Felix have left? When will Justin Gatlin cede the world’s fastest man title? How much longer will Caster Semenya be unbeatable?

Those questions might not be answered at this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic (NBC and NBC Sports Gold broadcast schedule here), but it could be the most important meet of a year without a world championships to sort them out.

Felix races the 400m, now her trademark event after a decade as mainly a 200m sprinter, for the first time since taking bronze at worlds in London in August. She does so against the women who beat her both at worlds in London and in Rio.

Gatlin withdrew from Pre on Wednesday, but the man now seen as the heir to Usain Bolt‘s sprint throne, Christian Coleman, races the 100m for the first time since worlds, too. Coleman may have been edged by Gatlin in their one-two at worlds, but he is 14 years younger and coming off an indoor season where he ran the 60m faster than the world record three times (twice under legal conditions).

If Coleman stays fast at Pre, through the summer and 2019, we may look back on 2017 as the transition year between the retiring Bolt and rising Coleman more so than Gatlin’s return to the top.

Semenya faces all of her closest 800m rivals on Saturday, though “close” must be used loosely. Her dominance may be impacted going into next season if the IAAF’s new testosterone limits on middle-distance runners are implemented. This Diamond League season presents what could be the final opportunities for American Ajee’ Wilson and others to take on Semenya before the women’s 800m landscape changes significantly.

Eugene start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

FRIDAY
9:37 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
9:42 — Men’s Javelin
10:52 — Men’s 800m
11:06 — Men’s 2 Mile

SATURDAY
3:40 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
3:43 — Men’s Triple Jump
3:48 — Men’s International Mile
4 — Men’s High Jump
4:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
4:10 — Women’s 800m
4:18 — Men’s 100m
4:26 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:41 — Women’s 100m
4:50 — Women’s 1500m
4:58 — Men’s Shot Put
5:03 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:10 — Women’s 5000m
5:31 — Women’s 400m
5:44 — Men’s 200m
5:51 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five events to watch on Saturday:

Women’s 800m — 4:10 p.m. ET
Olympic champion Caster Semenya faces the fastest American of all time, Ajee’ Wilson, for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Semenya breezed past Wilson and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba in the final straight. Semenya is undefeated at 800m for 22 straight meets dating to September 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — 4:26 p.m. ET
First matchup between Olympic and world champion Consenslus Kipruto of Kenya and top American Evan Jager this season, and Jager’s first steeplechase anywhere since Sept. 1. Kipruto relegated Jager to silver at the Olympics and bronze at the world championships. Jager has never won a race with Kipruto in the field but does have the world’s fastest time since the Rio Games.

Women’s 100m — 4:41 p.m. ET
The top five women from the 2017 World Championships, led by gold medalist Tori Bowie and Jamaican Elaine Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio but was shockingly fifth at worlds. Thompson suffered her second 100m defeat since the start of 2016 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 4. Bowie has been absent from the Diamond League since worlds in August. Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré of the Ivory Coast and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers have a chance here.

Men’s Shot Put — 4:58 p.m. ET
Every reigning Olympic and world medalist is in this field, plus the six men who combined for the world’s 33 best outdoor throws since the start of 2013. It’s headlined by Rio gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs of the U.S. and New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh, who on March 25 matched the farthest throw in the world since 1990. Crouser defeated Walsh at the Drake Relays on April 28.

Women’s 400m — 5:31 p.m. ET
Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo go head-to-head in the 400m for the first time outside of the Olympics and world championships. Their last meeting was at 2017 Worlds in London: Miller-Uibo led Felix going into the final straight, but Felix was passed by countrywoman Phyllis Francis and Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser while Miller-Uibo stumbled and ended up behind all three of them. Pre is the outdoor 400m season debut for Felix, Miller-Uibo and Francis. Miller-Uibo has already in 2018 run the fastest times ever for 300m indoors and 150m on a straightaway.

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Katinka Hosszu, coach/husband Shane Tusup split

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Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, the Olympic and world champion in both individual medleys, is no longer working with coach and husband Shane Tusup, according to Hosszu’s Facebook.

Tusup later said in an email and on social media that the couple, who wed in 2013, would “no longer be involved, personally or professionally.”

“I would like to get ahead of the gossips, sadly Shane and I haven’t been able to resolve our personal issues, therefore we are no longer working together,” Hosszu’s post read. “I’m still preparing for the upcoming competitions while looking at my options for my support team.”

Hosszu, 29, swept the individual medleys at the last three world championships in addition to the Rio Games, making her the world’s best all-around female swimmer for the last half-decade, since turning to Tusup as her coach following a medal-less London Olympics. She also captured the 200m and 400m individual medley world records in that span.

Hosszu and Tusup’s relationship was covered by mainstream media in Rio, when Tusup’s fiery behavior, well-known on the pool deck, showed during Hosszu’s Olympic races. At the time, Hosszu defended Tusup.

They began dating as swimmers at the University of Southern California and endured difficult recent times, as Hosszu noted in a December Facebook post.

On March 29, Hosszu posted a Facebook photo with Tusup with a caption, “You and me against the World,” both of them smiling.

Hosszu last competed Dec. 21. Her name appears on psych sheets for a meet in California that starts Friday.

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