Mikaela Shiffrin repeats as World Cup overall champion

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OFTERSCHWANG, Germany (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin can finally relax again.

After a tense build-up to the Olympics, the American won her second straight overall World Cup title on Friday, five races before the end of the season.

“It’s been a big battle for me mentally to know exactly where my focus should be,” said Shiffrin, who turns 23 on Tuesday. “It was quite a relief actually when the Olympics were over so I could focus on the rest of the World Cup season.”

Shiffrin won the Olympic gold medal in the giant slalom, and it was in Friday’s giant slalom that she clinched the overall World Cup title by finishing third. Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, the Olympic silver medalist, won the race.

Even before her final run, Shiffrin was guaranteed of winning the title because her only remaining rival, Wendy Holdener, failed to finish in the top two, which she needed to maintain her mathematical title chance. The Swiss skier finished 14th.

“That’s really exciting, for sure. It’s hard to explain that feeling really,” said Shiffrin, who holds a 603-point lead over Holdener in the overall standings with only Saturday’s slalom and four races at next week’s World Cup finals in Sweden remaining.

“The best thing for me now is to have the crystal globe already locked in,” she said. “I can really just enjoy the last races and not have to fight for points to win the globe.

“After last year when I won the overall, actually some people were saying like it’s sort of fake because the other girls weren’t there and there was nobody to challenge her. So, to have the overall this year locked in already before we even go to finals, it feels like confirmation for me.”

Last season, Shiffrin clinched the World Cup overall title after her closest challenger, Swiss Lara Gut, suffered a season-ending ACL tear at the February World Championships.

Shiffrin is the second American female skier to win multiple overall titles. Lindsey Vonn won the sport’s most coveted prize four times.

Friday’s result came exactly two months after Shiffrin’s last victory in a World Cup race. She racked up a personal best 10 World Cup wins this season, but they all came in a relatively short 46-day spell between Nov. 25 and Jan. 9.

She was a clear favorite to successfully defend her maiden overall title since setting a World Cup record by winning the first five races of 2018.

However, she failed to win another race after triumphing at a night slalom in Flachau, Austria. A dip in form during her last five races before the PyeongChang Olympics saw her failing to finish three times and placing seventh twice.

In South Korea, she won Olympic gold in the giant slalom and silver in the combined event, but missed out on a medal in her strongest discipline, the slalom. She vomited before the start and later said that nerves played a role.

“I had goals for the slalom and GS globes, the overall globe, Olympic medals,” Shiffrin said Friday. “My next biggest goal was to be strong for the end of the season.”

In her first race after the Olympics, Shiffrin was fourth after the opening run but improved a spot to third, 0.74 seconds behind Mowinckel.

The Norwegian won Olympic silver medals in both giant slalom and downhill last month but called her first career World Cup win “the best feeling there is.”

“I’ve worked hard for this a really long time,” Mowinckel said. “I knew my skiing was solid.”

Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany finished 0.66 behind in second and closed in on the season title in the discipline. With one race remaining, she leads world giant slalom champion Tessa Worley of France by 92 points in the discipline standings.

Friday’s result stretched Rebensburg’s lead over Shiffrin to 101 points, leaving the American out of contention for the GS title.

However, Shiffrin could add another discipline globe this weekend, holding a 175-point lead over Petra Vlhova of Slovakia going into the penultimate slalom race of the season on Saturday (6:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA).

“For sure I have a big lead,” Shiffrin said. “But nothing is impossible, so I am going to stay focused.”

Shiffrin skipped last weekend’s super-G and super combined in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. As did Vonn, who is also missing this weekend’s technical events (not her specialties) but will return for the World Cup finals.

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MORE: Best Alpine skiing moments of PyeongChang Olympics

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

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