Mikaela Shiffrin wins 50th World Cup, youngest to hit milestone

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Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Alpine skier to reach 50 World Cup wins and tied a childhood idol for the career slalom victories record, prevailing in Courchevel, France on Saturday.

Shiffrin won for the second straight day, for her fifth straight start and for the 14th time in 2018, extending her female World Cup record for one year.

She beat Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova by .29 of a second over two runs, making up a .04 deficit on the last split, 16 seconds before the finish. Full results are here.

A day after yelling at the finish line, out of character, Shiffrin was her quieter self on Saturday with a pair of subdued arm pumps while breathing heavily.

“Physically, my energy is good,” Shiffrin, who overcame a back injury and illness in recent weeks, said after having the fastest first run by .04 over Vlhova, “but mentally waking up is a struggle.”

The 23-year-old supplanted all-time wins leader Ingemar Stenmark as the quickest to 50 victories by age (by two months). However, Stenmark reached 50 wins in 100 starts, while Shiffrin did it in 142 starts. Lindsey Vonn did it in 297, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen.

“I was trying as hard as I could not to focus on [the 50 milestone] today because it’s so distracting to think about those numbers,” Shiffrin said. “There’s, like, a list of statistics and records that happened today, and I don’t even know what they are. … I’m not chasing these victories. I’m skiing freely.”

It’s likely Shiffrin gets to 60 World Cup wins before February’s world championships. The next five races through Jan. 8 are all giant slaloms or slaloms, Shiffrin’s specialties.

“I think she will beat all the records that you can beat,” said Swede Frida Hansdotter, who took slalom gold in PyeongChang (when Shiffrin was shockingly fourth) and was third on Saturday.

Shiffrin now has 35 slalom wins, matching retired Austrian Marlies Schild for the female record in that discipline. Shiffrin, who has 39 slalom wins if including head-to-head parallel events, still defers to Schild as the greatest female slalom skier ever.

“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 her old runs. “So I can’t ever feel like, oh yeah, I took that record from her.”

The World Cup moves to Semmering, Austria, for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

“I’m going to go hibernate for the next four days,” Shiffrin joked.

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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