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.

Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long
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One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

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Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
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Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

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