Mikaela Shiffrin makes history with fourth-straight slalom world championship win

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Set to ski ahead of her two fastest competitors from run one, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson, the U.S.’ Mikaela Shiffrin, who had fought through violent coughing fits in her first run, was pulled aside by her mom to say it was O.K. if she didn’t ski her second.

“My mom said to me before the second run, ‘You don’t have to do this,'” Shiffrin said. “I was coughing so hard that my stomach was in spasms, and I couldn’t breathe, and then I kept coughing more.

“At what point do you say, No, I can’t do 60 seconds of skiing. I’m out here. I want to do it and whether I win or not, I just wanted to try. And when she said, You don’t have to, then I was sure that I wanted to.”

Skiing for her record-setting fourth consecutive world slalom title, Shiffrin went all-in, raising the stakes in the two-run race and crossed the finish in first, taking over the top spot by more than a second.

After completing her fight with her body and the mountain, Shiffrin collapsed to the snow, coughing and gasping to catch her breath.

With the final outcome now out of her control, Shiffrin watched, hoping her lead would hold.

Swenn-Larsson followed Shiffrin, but was unable to find the speed to knock Shiffrin out of first. Despite missing the top spot by .62 hundredths of a second, Swenn-Larsson was greeted like a champion by the home crowd as she won the first medal for Sweden at these world championships.

Holdener was next on course, but just moments into her run, it became clear Shiffrin would prevail. Making her 11th turn on course, Holdener came off a gate wide and was forced to hit the brakes. Holdener would finish her second run well off the pace set by Shiffrin, falling all the way to 17th.

Full results are here.

“I knew I had to fight really hard the second run because Anna and Wendy are so strong,” a tearful Shiffrin told NBC Sports after her run. “The girls behind me were also really close. I just figured I have to be tough and try it and I just need 60 seconds to push, and I can do that for 60 seconds.”

Shiffrin gets her second win of these world championships. Her first came in the first race of the event, the Super-G. Shiffrin was also on the giant slalom podium, winning bronze in the same discipline in which she leads her competitors by a considerable margin on the World Cup points list.

The 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships wraps up in Are tomorrow morning with the men’s slalom. Watch the first run live at 5:00 a.m. ET on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold, with an encore presentation on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second run gets started at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and 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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