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Austria’s Schmidhofer wins Super-G with U.S.’ Shiffrin taking World Cup break

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Three-time World Cup Super-G winner this season, Mikaela Shiffrin took the week off to recharge and train while the rest of her fellow competitors headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, leaving the door open for a new face to grace the top of the Super-G podium. 

“It will be the first time this season that I’ve had a chance to really take a break,” Shiffrin said after winning the Super-G last week in Cortina d’Ampezzo. “My team as well. My coaches have been going non-stop since the beginning, so we’re going to take a short break, get back on the skis, get back on the slalom skis, get ready for Maribor and the World Championships.”

Shiffrin has said she does not intend to chase the Super-G title this year, but if she continues skiing the event the way she has all season, it may be her’s whether she meant to win it or not.

The U.S.’ Lindsey Vonn, who is chasing the all-time World Cup win record for a man or woman, was also absent from the startlist in Germany. Vonn made her return to the World Cup a week ago in Cortina. However, coming off a jump in Super-G training last week, Vonn felt a new pain surge in one of her knees, which hampered her for the rest of her comeback weekend. After being examined, Vonn said on Instagram she would be starting physical therapy to help lessen severe nerve pain in her knee and lower leg muscles.

For the women in attendance in GaPa, heavy snowfall ahead of competition made for a softer Super-G course at the start of the event. The speed of the course would pick up as the snow became increasingly compacted after each run. Coming out with the win was Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer. Schmidhofer, currently the downhill World Cup points leader, crossed the finish line .23 hundredths of a second ahead of Italy’s Sofia Goggia.

Full results are here.

Goggia, one of Vonn’s closest friends on the World Cup, made her return to racing this week after fracturing her right ankle before the opening giant slalom of the season back in October.

The U.S.’ Laurenne Ross posted her best Super-G result of the season in GaPa, finishing the day in 14th.

The men’s World Cup skiers competed in slalom today in Kitzbuehel. France’s Clement Noel held off overall World Cup points leader Marcel Hirscher to win his second slalom in as many weeks. Noel took the top slalom prize last week in Wengen. The back-to-back slalom victories are the first top finishes for the 21-year-old Frenchman. Joining Noel and Hirscher on the podium was France’s Alexis Pinturault

Full results are here

World Cup Alpine racing is set to continue tomorrow for both the men and women. On Sunday, the women will compete in the downhill starting at 5:30 a.m. ET. Watch live on Olympic Channel or stream it on NBC Sports Gold. The women’s downhill will also air on NBCSN on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. ET.

The men will finish their weekend in Kitzbuehel with the Super-G, starting at 7:30 a.m. ET. Watch the men race live on NBC Sports Gold.

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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