Shiffrin, Pinturault get wins for World Cup record book

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SOLDEU, Andorra — Citius, altius, 40th.

Embodying the Olympic motto in a World Cup slalom Saturday, Mikaela Shiffrin went faster in her second slalom run and higher in the World Cup all-time lists by being stronger than Wendy Holdener to win an intense duel.

Shiffrin’s 40th career victory in World Cup slaloms tied her with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark’s record for wins in the discipline.

On a record-setting day in sun-bathed Andorra, Alexis Pinturault earlier won the final men’s giant slalom of the season.

Pinturault became the most prolific French skier in World Cup history with his 23rd career victory.

Shiffrin had trailing 0.28 seconds behind first-run leader Holdener and won by just 0.07 after both racers visibly pushed their limits slicing through the gates.

Holdener’s unlucky defeat extended her own unwanted World Cup record with a 22nd career podium finish in slalom without a victory.

That’s the most top-three placings in a single discipline without winning for any man or woman in the 52-year World Cup history.

Shiffrin, the 2014 Sochi Winter Games gold medalist, earned 100 race points to lift her season-long total in the slalom standings to a remarkable 1,160 — more than every woman skier’s total over all disciplines, except for overall standings runner-up Petra Vlhova.

Shiffrin’s mammoth 2,104 points — the second-highest total ever in the World Cup — is more than 800 ahead of Vlhova. Holdener is third.

Vlhova placed third Saturday but trailed more than a second behind the standout leading pair.

Frida Hansdotter, the 2018 Olympic slalom champion competing in her final World Cup race, placed fifth, 1.89 behind Shiffrin.

Pinturault retained his first-run lead to finish 0.44 seconds ahead of Swiss prospect Marco Odermatt, who earned a career-best result.

Zan Kranjec was third, trailing 1.03 behind Pinturault, who broke a tie with Carole Merle for the all-time record by a French racer. Merle got her 22 wins in giant slalom and super-G from 1988-93. Alpine great Jean-Claude Killy won 18 times.

Marcel Hirscher placed sixth, 1.74 back, having already clinched his fifth straight title in the season-long giant slalom standings.

“It’s really cool to have this globe,” Hirscher said, holding the crystal trophy he also won in 2012. “It’s surreal to have it for six years now.”

The Austrian star has also secured a record eighth straight overall World Cup title, though had his lead cut to 415 points by Pinturault ahead of the season-ending slalom on Sunday.

The World Cup finals meeting ends Sunday with overall champions Shiffrin and Hirscher favored for victory in, respectively, a giant slalom and slalom.

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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