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Mikaela Shiffrin clinches third-straight World Cup overall title

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Mikaela Shiffrin clinched the World Cup overall title for the third straight year in “strange” circumstances after snowstorms prevented the women’s super-G race in Sochi from going ahead on Saturday.

The 23-year-old American skier — who had opted not to race this weekend and is training in Italy — has a 719-point lead over second-placed Petra Vlhova with a maximum of 700 points now remaining this season.

“It’s quite strange because I am sitting here right now on my bed,” Shiffrin said in a video posted to Twitter. “I could go jump around and do a little happy dance and that. I feel like nobody really needs to see that. It’s just, it’s pretty crazy.”

Shiffrin has dominated the season with a career-high 14 wins from the 29 races this World Cup season, branching out from her usual technical specialty to take three World Cup wins in the super-G. On top of that, Shiffrin added world championship gold medals in the slalom and super-G last month to emphasize a bright future for the U.S. in women’s skiing despite the retirement of Lindsey Vonn.

“This year it’s even something more special because a fair portion of my wins have come in super-G,” Shiffrin said. “I always felt like I wanted to be able to earn it in all events. I’m working on getting to the point where I can earn it in slalom, (giant slalom), super-G and downhill, but I felt like this season was a really big step.”

Shiffrin was already assured of winning the title in Sochi since neither she nor technical race specialist Vlhova, who was Shiffrin’s only remaining title rival, are competing here.

Shiffrin has suggested the high travel costs for Sochi discouraged her. Instead, she’s training in Italy ahead of next week’s races at the Czech resort of Spindleruv Mlyn.

Snowstorms and strong winds have played havoc with the first World Cup events in Sochi since the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the super-G could still be at risk in its Sunday slot. Heavy snowfall continued Saturday afternoon.

Saturday was originally meant for a downhill race, but that was canceled after it proved impossible to hold any of the three planned training sessions. When that opened up a slot in the calendar, organizers tried to add a second super-G rescheduled from St. Anton in January, but the weather made that impossible.

Governing body FIS has said the downhill and extra super-G “will definitely not be rescheduled.”

Organizers now face a rush to prepare a course for Sunday at the Rosa Khutor resort.

“Since the early morning hundreds of specialists and their equipment have been working on the course to ready it for tomorrow’s race,” the Russian Alpine Ski Federation, which organizes the event, said in a statement. “Weather at the resort is gradually improving and the forecast for Sunday means we’re optimistic about the chances of holding a race.”

Having too much snow, rather than not enough, is a novel problem for elite-level racing in Sochi. Ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, organizers feared warm temperatures so stockpiled the previous year’s snow under blankets and brought in equipment from around the world to make artificial snow.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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