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Eliud Kipchoge, Caterine Ibarguen win IAAF Athlete of the Year awards

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Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge and Colombian jumper Caterine Ibarguen won the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards.

Kipchoge lowered the marathon world record to 2:01:39 from 2:02:57 at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 16, winning a modern-era record-extending ninth straight elite marathon. He also won the London Marathon on April 22.

Kipchoge earned the award over finalists U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman, Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, French decathlete Kevin Mayer and Qatari hurdler Abderrahman Samba. He is the first male marathoner to grab the annual honor and the second Kenyan after David Rudisha in 2010.

Mayer was the only other man to break an outdoor world record this year, taking down the retired Ashton Eaton‘s decathlon mark.

Ibarguen swept the Diamond League season titles in the triple jump and the long jump, going undefeated for 2018 in the former. She is best known as a triple jumper, taking the 2013 and 2015 World titles and Rio Olympic gold.

The other female finalists were British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, Kenyan steeplechaser Beatrice Chepkoech, Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Belgian heptathlete Nafi Thiam. Chepkoech was the only woman to break a world record on the track this year, smashing the steeple mark by eight seconds.

The finalists did not include South African Caster Semenya, who extended an undefeated record at 800m dating to 2015 and set personal bests at 400m, 800m and 1500m this year. Semenya finished the season ranked No. 1 in the world in the 800m, No. 4 in the 400m and No. 9 in the 1500m, rare versatility.

The last Americans to earn the annual awards were Eaton in 2015 and Allyson Felix in 2012.

Duplantis and American hurdler Sydney McLaughlin won Rising Star awards.

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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.