Tearful Mikaela Shiffrin has rare fall in World Cup race (video)

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SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin doesn’t need to look at social media to see what people are saying about her.

After failing to finish two straight races with the Olympics rapidly approaching, the overall World Cup leader knows what her critics are thinking.

Shiffrin fell in the first run of Tuesday’s giant slalom, later won by German Viktoria Rebensburg. Full results here.

“I can see it in my mind, ‘Mikaela Shiffrin faltering before the Olympics.’ And, ‘The streak is coming to an end,'” Shiffrin said Tuesday. “But I’m not really worried about what other people think. That’s a different place that I’m in this year compared to last year.

“I’m not invincible. I’m fighting every single race and you start to hear people say, ‘It’s boring because Mikaela is winning everything.’ Well, it’s not boring today,” Shiffrin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I am in a good place mentally and I don’t feel like today or the race in Cortina (Sunday’s super-G, in which she missed a gate) is a sign. There are logical explanations for why I DNF’d in both races.”

In the GS, Shiffrin lost control of her inside ski coming around a turn as she entered the toughest section of a slope named Erta, which translates as steep.

With a gradient of 61 percent in that section, Shiffrin slid a long way down the course but immediately got up and was not injured.

“These things happen,” said Jeff Lackie, one of Shiffrin’s coaches. “They don’t typically happen with Mikaela because she’s so consistent. But anytime you add speed you have to be that much more diligent about being well balanced over the outside ski.”

It marked the first time in more than six years that Shiffrin failed to finish two consecutive races.

The last time came in back-to-back slaloms in Courchevel, France, and Flachau, Austria, in December 2011 — before the American registered her first World Cup podium.

“Now is a good time if it has to happen,” Lackie said. “I would rather it happen now and give her the opportunity to recalibrate and refocus.”

Shiffrin had been undefeated in 2018 in the technical disciplines of GS, slalom and parallel slalom with five straight wins.

And while she has been dominant in slalom with seven wins in eight races this season, she has only won two of six GS races — with Rebensburg and Brignone also gathering multiple victories.

“There are many strong girls in the GS races,” Rebensburg said “It’s not just (Shiffrin).”

Still, Shiffrin was distraught after her error, retreating immediately to the team hotel without first stopping to review the race with her mother and coach, Eileen Shiffrin, as she usually does.

“I don’t think she should be too disappointed,” Eileen said. “She made a mistake getting on her inside ski. I’m sure she won’t do that again.”

Added Lackie: “You don’t need to drag your face through the mud. She knows what she did wrong. Failure is not fatal. We’ll move on.”

After collecting herself in her hotel room, Shiffrin eventually came down and discussed the race. To lift her spirits, she played with the 5-month-old son of her ski technician, Kim Erlandson, while she spoke.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Shiffrin said, wiping away a tear or two. “Because out of all the runs that I ski — and I train more than probably anybody — I don’t crash and I don’t DNF. … I place so much emphasis on making every single turn perfect.”

Still, Shiffrin realizes that in the grand scheme of things, these races are not all that important.

While she dropped slightly behind Rebensburg in the giant slalom standings, Shiffrin still holds a massive 843-point lead over the German in the overall standings.

“Today is not the focus. The Olympics is the focus,” Shiffrin said. “But for me today is just a lesson to remember that nobody is invincible.”

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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