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Is Mikaela Shiffrin chasing records? Not exactly

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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.”

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MORE: Lindsey Vonn gets favorite course named after her

Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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