Shiffrin
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Shiffrin recharging, focusing on early March return to slopes

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A worn out and under-the-weather Mikaela Shiffrin will temporarily apply the brakes on her historic Alpine skiing season in order to take a much-needed breather. The way she’s racing, that’s almost got to be a sigh of relief for the rest of the field.

The skier from Avon, Colorado , plans on skipping World Cup races in Switzerland and Russia — site of the 2014 Sochi Games, where she won Olympic gold in the slalom — before returning to the circuit for the final push. Following a nearly two-week hiatus, she will be back in the start gate for the technical races in the Czech Republic and then the World Cup Finals in Andorra.

Her absence is a chance for other names to appear on top of a podium she’s dominated of late.

So far this season, Shiffrin’s recorded 20 top-three finishes, including 14 World Cup wins along with two world championships gold medals and a bronze. She’s already wrapped up the World Cup slalom title and currently sits 719 points ahead of Petra Vlhova of Slovakia in a bid to win her third straight overall World Cup crown.

Shiffrin could keep right on charging. But what she really needs is time to recharge.

“Just get 100 percent recovered and healthy again, get some training in,” said Shiffrin, who turns 24 on March 13.

Shiffrin’s been running on fumes for days. She earned her fourth straight slalom title at the world championships in Sweden last Saturday despite a cold so severe it had her team fearing she might have a touch of pneumonia. She wasn’t sure how well she could compete, but stormed to the title with a furious final run that left her breathless and speechless.

“Most emotional I’ve ever been at a ski race. I kept crying,” said Shiffrin , who’s typically so reserved after wins. “Some of that might have been illness and being exhausted.”

A few days later, Shiffrin captured a city event in Stockholm. It was her 57th career win on the circuit and 14th of the season, matching the record for most World Cup victories in a single campaign, set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in the 1990s.

“Rest,” she said, “is going to help a lot.”

And rest assured, she’s got the formula for winning down to a science. Her hidden secret? Don’t set high expectations.

Better yet, none at all.

She does her best work when she doesn’t imagine a good run, because rarely does it live up to the picture in her mind. So she concentrates on going from gate to gate in order to capture win after win.

“When I’m in the starting gate thinking, ‘I want to win this,’ I bring the intensity too high and then I make a mistake,” explained Shiffrin, who also won gold in the super-G at the recent world championships and bronze in the giant slalom. “I get to the finish and I’m really disappointed because I totally let the result get in the way of the actual process. My biggest goal is every time I stand in the starting gate, no matter what records I might be looking at, focus on the skiing, focus on the turns, because that’s the thing that leaves me the most satisfied.”

Lately, she’s been dealing with a sore back. She described it as a “GS back,” due to all the rotational force and the movement required in the giant slalom.

“With each year, my body is starting to complain to me,” said Shiffrin, who earned Olympic gold (giant slalom) and silver (combined) at the Pyeongchang Games last February. “My back has been kind of nagging all season long. It’s something we’ve had to manage.”

There will be plenty on the line when she returns from her brief break. She holds a slight lead over Tessa Worley of France in the overall GS race. Shiffrin also has a 32-point advantage over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein in the season-long super-G standings (one of the races in Russia is a super-G). Her priority the rest of the way will definitely be on the GS, a World Cup crown she’s yet captured. Should she capture the super-G title, well, that’s an added bonus since she only recently started training for the speed discipline.

“I’m having more fun this season than I ever have, which is awesome,” Shiffrin said.

This will keep her motivated down the stretch: “I’m looking forward,” Shiffrin said, “to getting to a beach — somewhere.”

Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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