AP

Is Mikaela Shiffrin chasing records? Not exactly

Leave a comment

With every win these days, Mikaela Shiffrin breaks a record (or approaches one) or joins an exclusive club of the greatest skiers in modern history.

Asked what she thought of that kind of chatter to which media clings, she said, “I don’t consider myself a record chaser,” on a U.S. Ski and Snowboard media call Wednesday.

“My opinion of the sport and of what I want to do in the sport is to be considered one of the best technical skiers and essentially to win,” Shiffrin said. “Not to win a certain number of races, but just to be able to get in the start and have the ability to be the best racer on any given day in any given event.

“With that comes winning races and getting closer to these records. I’m not chasing that. These people who have come before and who have set these records, I don’t feel like I’m ever going to compete with that.”

What the 23-year-old from Vail, Colo., has done is become a factor no matter the event, no matter the location. Shiffrin became the seventh woman to earn a World Cup win in all five disciplines with her first super-G victory on Sunday in Lake Louise, Alberta. She took a more aggressive line than speed specialists with far more experience.

Her steady increase in training and racing the speed events of downhill and super-G the last few years was done “with the hope that at some point I would be able to be a contender to win in all disciplines,” she said. “I think the point for me was not necessarily to actually be the best in every discipline, but more just to be one of the people that every time I get in the starting gate, everyone’s watching because they know that I can. I have the ability. I think that’s where I’m at right now.”

When looking at her finishes this past weekend — ninth and fourth in downhills followed by the super-G win — consider that the vast majority of Shiffrin’s training this fall has been for her trademark technical events of slalom and giant slalom. Also consider that she has more experience at Lake Louise than the rest of the speed venues on the World Cup.

The circuit moves to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for a super-G on Saturday and a parallel slalom on Sunday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold. A full weekend TV schedule is here. Shiffrin is a clear favorite in the latter and some sort of a contender in the former, having placed 20th in the super-G there last year in her lone speed start at the two-time Winter Olympic host.

Her next win — her 47th — will move Shiffrin into sole position of fourth place on the women’s World Cup career wins list. Her next slalom win — her 35th — will tie Marlies Schild for the record in that discipline.

The stat that accompanies every Shiffrin victory is the number of wins she has attained before she turns 24 on March 13.

Lindsey Vonn had 13 at the same age, but what Vonn has done late in her career (23 wins in her 30s) is anomalous like Shiffrin’s early 20s resume. Ingemar Stenmark, the record holder with 86 victories, won 52 times before turning 24 in 1980. Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who held the female record before Vonn broke it, had 42 wins before age 24, with a one-year retirement mixed in. Different statistics can be used to argue different views.

“I’m sort of torn,” about the record talk and historical comparisons, Shiffrin said. “First of all, it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of the all-time greatest skiers. So that is very flattering. But, in some ways, I don’t think it’s comparable.”

Shiffrin has said she will always consider childhood idol Schild the greatest slalom skier of all time.

“She was the one who made it possible for me to ski slalom the way that I do,” said Shiffrin, who as a teen studied video of Schild’s technique and said last month that she still watches the Austrian’s old runs. “So I can’t ever feel like, oh yeah, I took that record from her.”

Bode Miller was another of Shiffrin’s early inspirations. Like Shiffrin, Miller made his first Olympic team in slalom and giant slalom only. He went on to win at least five times in each discipline on the World Cup.

“It is an incredible feeling to know that my dream as a little girl, watching my big, all-time inspirations in the sport, that dream, I’ve been able to succeed and realize that dream,” Shiffrin said. “Now I guess the trick is just continuing to work.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Lindsey Vonn gets favorite course named after her

Katie Ledecky swims fastest at U.S. Open from B final

Leave a comment

For what must have been the first time in seven years, Katie Ledecky failed to qualify for an A final in one of her primary events on Friday morning. No matter, she swam the fastest 200m freestyle at the U.S. Open from the B final at night.

Ledecky, owner of 20 combined Olympic and world titles, clocked 1:56.24 to win the B final by nearly three seconds in Atlanta. In the very next race, American record holder Allison Schmitt touched first in the A final in 1:56.47.

Full results are here. The final day of the meet airs live on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Ledecky has rarely lost domestically in freestyles from 200m through 1500m since she made her first Olympic team at age 15 in 2012.

She kept the streak intact, giving her a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in the first three days of the U.S. Open, what could be the deepest domestic meet before the Olympic trials in June.

Internationally, Ledecky faced challengers in the 200m free in this Olympic cycle, unlike the last one. Italian veteran and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won the last two world titles, with Ledecky missing the event this summer due to her mid-meet illness.

Ledecky ranks seventh in the world in the 200m free this year but likely would have been faster if she was able to race at her best at world champs.

Domestically, Simone Manuel has crept up, clocking 1:56.09 to lead off the 4x200m free relay at worlds to rank second among Americans in 2019. Manuel was the third-fastest American on Friday, recording 1:57.21, her fastest time ever outside of a major summer meet.

In other events Friday, Phoebe Bacon upset world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke. Bacon, who like Smith is 17 years old, overtook Smith in the last 25 meters and prevailed by .05 in 58.63. Bacon, while shy of Smith’s world record 57.57, took .39 off her personal best to become the fifth-fastest in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King dominated the 100m breaststroke, beating a strong field by .62 of a second in 1:05.65.

Chase Kalisz won a potential Olympic trials preview in the 400m individual medley in 4:13.07. Kalisz, the Rio silver medalist, held off 18-year-old Carson Foster by 1.69 seconds. Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic champion in the event, was fifth, 6.65 seconds behind.

Rio Olympian Townley Haas won the men’s 200m free in 1:45.92, his fastest time since August 2018. Haas, the 2017 World silver medalist, improved to the second-fastest American in the event this year behind Andrew Seliskar.

Torri Huske won the 100m butterfly on the eve of her 17th birthday. Huske clocked 57.48, taking .23 off her personal best to move from sixth fastest to third fastest in the U.S. this year.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Dressel recalls summer tears in Golden Goggles speech

Ester Ledecka stuns again, wins World Cup downhill from bib No. 26

AP
Leave a comment

Consider 26 a lucky number for Ester Ledecka.

Ledecka, the snowboard champion who stunningly captured the PyeongChang Olympic super-G from bib No. 26, won her first World Cup ski race on Friday — also from bib No. 26.

Ledecka was fastest in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta.

She kept Swiss Corinne Suter from her first World Cup win by .35 of a second. Austrian Stephanie Venier was third. Mikaela Shiffrin was 10th in her weakest discipline. Full results are here.

“I am for sure more shocked than everybody here,” Ledecka said. “I was a little bit, not disappointed about the run, but I was not super satisfied. Then I was really surprised about the time.”

Ledecka, an Olympic and world champion in Alpine snowboarding from the Czech Republic, had a previous best Alpine skiing World Cup finish of seventh. The top-ranked racers all go in the top 20 of the start list.

Last season, Ledecka raced more World Cup skiing events than snowboarding events for the first time. She was forced to choose between world championships in skiing and in snowboarding due to schedules and picked the former with a top finish of 15th.

She’s undecided about her upcoming schedule. She could continue on the Alpine skiing tour with a super-G in Switzerland next weekend, or she could fly to Italy for a snowboarding event.

The women race another downhill and a super-G in Lake Louise the next two days. A full TV and live stream schedule for the weekend races is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing season TV schedule