Shiffrin doubles up, breaks two World Cup records with single slalom win

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U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin made good on the slopes of Semmering, Austria, giving alpine racing fans a thrill by becoming both the winningest skier in World Cup history in women’s slalom and setting a new record for most wins in a calendar year.

Shiffrin now holds the record for most World Cup slalom wins for a woman with 36. On her way to history she passed her childhood hero, Marlies Schild of Austria. Throughout her career Shiffrin has said Schild will always be the greatest, regardless of how many races she may win.

“Marlies for me, she’s always going to be the best,” Shiffrin said after the win. “I wouldn’t be where I am, without being able to watch her.”

Picking up her 36th World Cup slalom victory also makes Shiffrin the second winningest slalom skier for a man or woman on the World Cup. She now needs just four more wins to tie Sweden’s legendary Ingemar Stenmark for the top spot.

Shiffrin also set the single-year win record for any skier in tour history with the slalom victory — her 15th in 2018.

And just to add a little more icing to an already sweet day, Shiffrin’s slalom win was also the 51st time she topped a World Cup podium, pushing her past Italy’s Alberto Tomba on the World Cup all-time win list where she is now in sole possession of the seventh spot.

After the first trip down the slalom course in Semmering, Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova of Slovakia were sitting one and two in the standings.  Shiffrin came up short a day earlier when Vlhova posted the best time in the giant slalom, effectively putting all record setting for Shiffrin on hold.

Shiffrin took the early lead in the slalom with a .48 hundredths of a second gap between herself and Vlhova after the first run. The lead was much more comfortable on this day as opposed to the .02 hundredths of a second lead Shiffrin had after yesterday’s first run in the GS.  

Indeed, the record books required edits after Shiffrin’s second slalom run. As she climbed into the start gate, Shiffrin needed to ski faster than her Friday rival Vlhova once more. Vlhova sat in the leader’s chair with a .09 hundredths of a second lead, but it wasn’t enough. Shiffrin answered with a second run .29 hundredths of a second faster.

“[My] second run was more of a battle. I was trying to not risk everything, but making speed on every turn,” Shiffrin explained. “I had a couple mistakes…where I was fighting for my life.

”But it was a good fight.”

Joining Shiffrin and Vlhova on the podium in third was Switzerland’s Wendy HoldenerFull results are here.

Meanwhile in Bormio, the men’s World Cup tour continued with the Super-G. Friday’s downhill winner, and Bormio local, Italy’s Dominik Paris found the speed he needed to pick up his second win of the weekend. Grinding through the lower section of the course, Paris made up time and crossed the finish to beat the reigning Olympic champion in Super-G, Austria’s Mathias Mayer by just .01 hundredth of a second. Full results are here.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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