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.

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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