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Mikaela Shiffrin just misses Lake Louise downhill podium

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Two days ago, Austrian racer Nicole Schmidhofer had no World Cup wins.

Now, she can’t lose.

Schmidhofer captured a second straight downhill Saturday with an even faster run. She finished in 1 minute, 47.68 seconds to hold off teammate Cornelia Huetter by 0.44 seconds.

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland was third, 0.47 seconds back, while two-time overall World Cup winner Mikaela Shiffrin wound up fourth.

“It’s unbelievable for me,” the 29-year-old Schmidhofer said. “I’m excited and a little bit surprised that I started the season so great.”

Schmidhofer was nearly a half-second faster than she was the day before. It didn’t always feel that way on the course, she said.

“Yesterday was dark and more bumpy. Today, too easy — the line was too easy and not so fast,” she explained. “It was fast enough.”

After finishing ninth Friday, Shiffrin moved up to fourth. Shiffrin won a World Cup downhill at the venue a season ago. She’s still trying to get up to speed in the downhill.

“After last year, I know how it’s supposed to feel,” Shiffrin said. “That doesn’t mean that I can do it every time, but at least I know how it’s supposed to feel.

“Today’s race versus yesterday’s race, it was a lot closer to that feeling of attacking and letting my skis run. That doesn’t always guarantee a win or even a podium, but it does guarantee that I’m making progress and getting better on my speed skis.”

Lindsey Vonn skipped the speed races to recover from a training crash that injured her knee. Although she planned to retire after the season, Vonn recently posted that she intends to race at Lake Louise next season. It’s her favorite venue.

Before this weekend, Schmidhofer’s best World Cup finish was second in a super-G race on Jan. 20, 2013, in Italy. She won the super-G at the 2017 World Championships.

“I’m really happy,” she said.

Huetter studied a video of Schmidhofer’s run from Friday and tried to replicate it.

“I was a little bit too late in the first gate,” Huetter said. “It took the speed with me. The rest of the track was really good. I skied much better than yesterday.”

Gisin was on the podium once again. She was second the day before.

“I’m so excited and I hope I can take the flow with me and keep going,” Gisin said.

The speed races at Lake Louise close with a super-G on Sunday.

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Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

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