Summer Britcher takes second in luge World Cup opener

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The wide-open World Cup women’s luge season started Saturday with the unusual sight of no German sliders in the top two and a massive shakeup in the standings between the two runs.

Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova came back from 13th place in the first run to win by 0.110 seconds ahead of U.S. slider Summer Britcher, who has been third in the last two World Cup seasons.

Ivanova shaved nearly a half-second off her first-run time, improving from 40.875 to 40.429. Britcher was more consistent — fourth in the first run (40.693) and eighth in the second (40.721).

First-run leader Lisa Schulte of Austria tumbled from first down to sixth. U.S. rookie Ashley Farquharson, fourth in last year’s world junior championships, was third in her first World Cup run but finished 25th in her second to take 15th overall.

Brittney Arndt, who made her World Cup debut last year, was 13th. World bronze medalist Emily Sweeney, who won the Nations Cup race Friday, had a rough first run to stand 27th before rallying to 24th overall.

German sliders have won the last 21 World Cup women’s titles. But the team is competing this year without Natalie Geisenberger, who has won the last two Olympic women’s gold medals and the last seven World Cups. Geisenberger is pregnant, as is teammate Dajana Eitberger. Five-time World Cup champion Tatjana Huefner has retired.

READ: Geisenberger and teammates out this season

On Saturday, two German sliders tied for third — World Cup runner-up Julia Taubitz and Jessica Tiebel.

The doubles race had a Polish pair, Wojciech Chmielewski and Jakub Kowalewski, in first place after the first run, but they struggled in the second and left a familiar set of German pairs atop the standings Toni Eggert and
Sascha Benecken first, just 0.009 seconds ahead of longtime rivals Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. The American sled of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman finished 17th.

Mazdzer, the Olympic silver medalist, will also compete in the men’s race on Sunday.

OlympicChannel.com will have live streaming of the men’s runs at 4 a.m. and 5:35 a.m. ET, then the team relay at 7:40 a.m. Highlights will be on NBCSN at 4:30 p.m. and the Olympic Channel at 5:30 p.m.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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