Getty Images

Mikaela Shiffrin clinches third-straight World Cup overall title

Leave a comment

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.

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!