Mikaela Shiffrin wins Killington slalom; one shy of World Cup record

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Mikaela Shiffrin joked after yet another World Cup slalom win that she told Marlies Schild as recently as three years ago that the Austrian is her idol.

Shiffrin, at the age of 23, is now on the brink of matching her idol for the most career World Cup slalom victories.

Shiffrin won her 34th slalom, and her third straight in Killington, Vt., on Sunday. She is one shy of the retired Schild’s record.

Shiffrin skied through the fog to prevail by .57 of a second over Slovakian Petra Vlhova. Olympic champion Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was third. Shiffrin led by .29 after the morning run and had the field’s second-fastest afternoon run.

“Definitely a couple points on the course where I wasn’t sure I was still on the course,” said Shiffrin, whose lead shrank below three tenths midway through her second run.

KILLINGTON: Results | Alpine TV Schedule

Shiffrin already has the slalom wins record if you include her three parallel slalom victories, but she can tie Schild for traditional slaloms in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 22.

When Shiffrin made her first World Cup podium in Lienz, Austria, on Dec. 29, 2011, she blurted out to the winner Schild. “Oh my gosh, I’m such a big fan,” she said, according to The New York Times. “Well, I’m also on the podium with you. But I’m still a big fan.”

Shiffrin said Sunday that she still studies video of Schild, who retired in 2014.

“I don’t care if I break her record, I still feel like she’s the greatest slalom skier of this generation because she was the first,” Shiffrin said on NBC. “She was the first one to completely pioneer a new kind of style of skiing. Some of her runs, it was like she belonged with the men [Schild was actually a forerunner for a men’s World Cup slalom in January 2012]. If I break her record or not, I feel like it’s not even comparable.”

Shiffrin is also one win shy of fourth place on the women’s career list across all disciplines. She’s at 45. Only Lindsey Vonn (82), Annemarie Moser-Pröll (62), Vreni Schneider (55) and Renate Götschl (46) have more.

“I’ve always wanted to be the best skier in the world,” she said. “Slalom came sooner for me. For whatever reason it clicked earlier on.”

Vonn, who notched her 45th win at age 27, has yet to race in this her farewell season and, after a training crash Monday, will not be at next weekend’s speed races at her favorite venue of Lake Louise, Alberta.

Also Sunday, Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien had their best career World Cup finishes of 17th and 23, respectively. The U.S. put three women in the top 30 of a World Cup slalom for the first time since Jan. 12, 2016.

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MORE: Lindsey Vonn crashes, delays start of farewell season

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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