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Karen Chen out of Grand Prix Series

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U.S. Olympian Karen Chen will miss the entire fall Grand Prix Series, withdrawing from this week’s Rostelecom Cup in Moscow with an injury.

“Although I know that injuries make me stronger, I also understand that it takes time,” was posted on Chen’s social media. “I need to be patient with this whole recovery process, so I realized that Russia isn’t doable. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I know that I want to feel 100% ready when I emerge back onto competition ice.”

Chen, third at last year’s nationals and 11th in PyeongChang, also withdrew last month from her other Grand Prix in Helsinki, citing a foot injury, as well as lower-level events in the summer and the world championships in March.

If Chen’s next event is the U.S. Championships in January, she will go 11 months between competitions.

Chen is the latest in a string of U.S. Olympians to sit out the Grand Prix for various reasons, not uncommon in a post-Olympic year. Mirai NagasuAshley Wagner and Adam Rippon are on indefinite breaks (Rippon said he’s likely retired). Polina Edmunds plans to return next season from a long-term right foot injury.

Ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are also taking time off, while Madison Chock and Evan Bates withdrew from their Grand Prix assignments as Chock recovers from ankle surgery.

Chen, 19, broke out in 2017, winning her first U.S. title and placing fourth at the world championships, the best debut by an American woman since Kimmie Meissner took gold in 2006.

Bradie Tennell is the lone female U.S. Olympic singles skater competing in multiple Grand Prix events this fall. She was fourth at Skate America and must finish on the podium at next week’s event in France for a chance at the six-skater Grand Prix Final in December.

If Tennell does not qualify, the U.S. will have zero women in the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international event, for a third straight year.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Back from concussion, U.S. ice dancers win first Grand Prix title

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.