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Stockholm 2026 Winter Olympic bid in trouble

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Stockholm’s bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics is at risk only three days after the IOC formally approved the city among three candidates.

A new coalition deal announced Friday to run Stockholm’s city government, between a center-right alliance and environmentalists, requires no taxpayer funding for a Winter Games.

“The starting point for all our parties has been to ensure that a Winter Olympics should not be on the taxpayers to pay for it,” coalition member Karin Ernlund said.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday it had “not yet had any official confirmation of the decision.”

If Stockholm drops out, the IOC will be left with Calgary, Canada, and the combined Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

A vote of IOC members is scheduled in June, the Olympic body said Tuesday when formalizing the 2026 contest, though there is uncertainty for the entire field.

Calgary’s bid faces a Nov. 13 referendum, and full government support is also not guaranteed in Italy.

Amid widespread public concern at Olympic hosting costs, IOC vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. said this week: “We have to make a huge effort in explaining ourselves better.”

Stockholm could return for a bid for 2030 or beyond, city lawmakers said.

“It is missing a clear basis for a Winter Olympics right now,” said Anna Konig Jerlmyr of Sweden’s Moderate party, “but everyone wants to have it in the future so the question is when.”

Stockholm’s bid plan has nearly half the medal events at least two hours outside of the city.

All but three medal events in Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboard are in Åre (400 miles northwest of Stockholm), ski jumping and Nordic combined are in Falun (140 miles northwest) and bobsled, skeleton and luge in Latvia.

Stockholm hosted the 1912 Summer Olympics and equestrian events for the 1956 Melbourne Games. Sweden owns the second-most winter medals of any nation yet to host a Winter Games, behind Finland.

Between 1984 and 2002, Swedish bids finished second or third in every Winter Olympic host vote (Gothenburg 1984, Falun 1988, Falun 1992, Ostersund 1994, Ostersund 1998 and Ostersund 2002).

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MORE: IOC drops first-time bidder for 2026 Winter Olympics

Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

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Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

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There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.