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Shiffrin refocusing, recuperating with eyes on slalom, GS

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ARE, Sweden — Following a stressful Olympic year, Mikaela Shiffrin has been scaling back her schedule at every opportunity this season.

Her latest move involved leaving the site of the world championships in Sweden soon after her super-G victory Tuesday to recharge and prepare for next week’s giant slalom and slalom.

Austrian media reported that Shiffrin left Are by helicopter for training in Trysil, Norway — forcing her ski technician to haul her equipment in a drive of six-plus hours across the border to catch up with her.

“She’s going off the grid for a bit, wants to keep it private,” the U.S. Ski Team told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Since she will not be competing in Friday’s Alpine combined race, Shiffrin has more than a week before her next events of giant slalom and slalom on Feb. 14 and 16. She is expected back in Are on Monday.

“The slalom and GS are her main goals and targets,” U.S. head coach Paul Kristofic said.

At last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, Shiffrin got stressed out by schedule changes and postponements and followed her gold-medal performance in giant slalom with only a fourth-place finish in slalom — her best event.

Shiffrin will be a big favorite to win both the GS and slalom in Are, putting her in position to match Anja Paerson’s three-gold performance from the 2007 worlds at the same venue.

“She has the capacity to, absolutely,” Kristofic said.

Paerson actually won five medals in 2007, winning super-G, combined and downhill plus silver in the team event and bronze in the slalom.

Shiffrin won’t compete in Sunday’s downhill or Tuesday’s team event.

“She’s competitive in everything she starts,” Kristofic said. “It’s outstanding and astonishing and it’s hard to put into words. … It’s a huge challenge and she’s up for it all the time.”

David Taylor will not defend wrestling world title

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David Taylor waited five years to get his chance at the world championships. The wait will also be a little longer than expected to defend his world title.

Taylor suffered a knee injury in a May 6 match and underwent surgery, according to his social media. He was to face Pat Downey in two weeks for the U.S.’ spot at 86kg at September’s world championships, but that’s not happening now.

“The nature of competing as a professional athlete is a delicate one,” was posted on Taylor’s accounts. “One year, you find yourself winning the tilte of the 86 kg World Champion and being voted best pound for pound wrestler on earth. In the blink of an eye, you lose yourself in thought over the noisy lull of the MRI machine, hoping that the pain in your knee isn’t what you fear most.”

Taylor, 28, was one of three U.S. men to earn maiden world titles last October in Budapest, along with fellow former NCAA standouts J’den Cox and Kyle Dake.

Taylor upset Iran’s Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani in his first match at worlds. He suffered a knee injury in his second match and said he was kicked in the face in the semifinals. He then dumped Turkey’s top-seeded Fatih Erdin in the final, scoring a two-point takedown in the first 10 seconds and getting a 12-2 tech fall.

“To be able to earn it the way that I earned it, there’s no easy way,” Taylor said. “I wrestled every single best guy every single round.”

Taylor became the oldest first-time Olympic or world champion for USA Wrestling since 2006. He had finished second or third at trials for the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 World teams and the 2016 Olympic team. He is one of four men to win the NCAA Wrestler of the Year award multiple times, doing so in 2012 and 2014 for Penn State.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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