Mikaela Shiffrin makes podium in World Cup season opener

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Mikaela Shiffrin and Tessa Worley vacationed together in Martinique in the offseason. They shared the podium — Worley first, Shiffrin third — in far less inviting weather in the first race of the World Cup season, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Saturday.

Shiffrin, the Olympic GS champion, finished .94 behind the Frenchwoman and .59 behind Italian runner-up Federica Brignone. She was disappointed with her first run on a course set by her coach, which put her in fourth place and six tenths back going into the afternoon finale.

“I wasn’t really fighting hard enough,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “For sure [my second run] was better. It was not like pretty skiing but I was fighting harder. I had fun out there but I also had some turns that were not fun at all.”

The start was moved down before the first run due to poor visibility, compounded by windy snowfall and bumpy terrain on the Rettenbach glacier.

“It was a fight,” Worley said.

MORE: Full Results | Alpine season TV schedule

Shiffrin made the podium in Soelden for the fourth time in five years. She’s favored this season to join Lindsey Vonn as the only women to win three straight World Cup overall titles in the last 25 years.

Shiffrin gained points Saturday on her top rivals from recent seasons. Swiss Wendy Holdener, last season’s overall runner-up, was seventh. Another Swiss, Lara Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champ, was 14th.

“I was able to start the season with a podium and it’s a great thing,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “It’s not enough, but it’s OK for now and it’s a good place to start.”

Worley, who relegated Shiffrin to GS silver at the 2017 Worlds, became the first Frenchwoman to win in Soelden. It’s her 13th World Cup win, all in giant slalom. She was a disappointing seventh in the PyeongChang Olympic GS.

The World Cup season continues with the opening men’s giant slalom in Soelden on Sunday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold). Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety has won four times on the Rettenbach glacier.

Shiffrin is expected to headline the next women’s World Cup race, a slalom in Levi, Finland in three weeks. Vonn plans her season debut in her farewell year for the first speed events at Lake Louise, Alberta, in five weeks.

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MORE: Vonn explains why it’s her final season

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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