Mikaela Shiffrin, after ‘soul-healing’ break, moves to solo No. 2 on women’s wins list

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Mikaela Shiffrin earned her 63rd World Cup win on Saturday, moving to solo No. 2 on the women’s all-time list behind Lindsey Vonn (82) and ending her longest victory drought since the PyeongChang Olympics.

Shiffrin prevailed in a giant slalom in Lienz, Austria, by 1.36 seconds over Italian Marta Bassino. Austrian Katharina Liensberger was third. Full results are here.

Shiffrin led by .61 after the opening run, but that lead was down to .33 late in her second run before she gained 1.03 seconds on Bassino in a 14-second stretch.

“I knew it was dark, and I knew it was bumpy,” she said. “I was like, OK, today you’re going to push and see what happens.”

Shiffrin nearly arrived too late for the start of the opening run. Having misread the local start time of 10:15 a.m., she was preparing for a 10:30 start. Shiffrin had to interrupt her usual warm-up routine to make it to the gate in time.

Shiffrin had not won her previous five races — though four of those were speed events where she is not dominant — while she did make two podiums. But if ever there was concern, it came with her most recent start before Lienz, 11 days ago.

She finished 17th in a GS in Courchevel, France, her worst result since PyeongChang and her worst for a tech race outside of DNFs in more than five years.

A day later, Shiffrin tweeted that “forced me to re-evaluate the coming weeks.” She later withdrew from last weekend’s downhill and combined races in Val d’Isere, which ended up being canceled anyway due to heavy snow.

“We skipped Val d’Isere because I felt like I wasn’t doing my job,” Shiffrin said.

She stayed in Europe around Christmas, training slalom and giant slalom in Courchevel and Folgaria-Alpe Cimbra, Italy. Her mom, Eileen, who had stepped back from her coaching role earlier this fall, came over before Christmas and was on the hill Saturday, along with Shiffrin’s dad. Shiffrin called it “soul-healing.”

“It’s pretty hard to believe this right now,” she said of the victory. “I know that sounds strange, but it is. … It sounds a little bit stupid, actually, to say the last week was a tough time because I still have already an amazing season. One bad race, it’s stupid, really. It’s just ski racing. But I care.

“The big question in my mind was, when there’s the pressure of a race, can I do it? Can I actually do the good skiing? This season has been really, really difficult. I know I say it doesn’t matter what I did last season [record 17 World Cup wins]. … But when you go through every single race and people are saying, well this is what you did last year. This is how many points you had last year. By this time last year you had won in multiple disciplines and all these things, I’m starting to compare every step with what I did last season, a season that might never happen again. So this last week was a lot of learning, again, to put those expectations aside because the amount of hurt that I felt after Courchevel — not that I came in 17th, but that I skied to deserve 17th.

“So I had to change a lot of things this last week and also change my attitude and come into this race really not expecting to win and knowing that I don’t deserve to win. … Doing those two runs was really, really special, and it meant a lot more that you can’t sum it up on paper.

“I don’t think it’s a problem to compare this season with last season, but the problem is when I start to think, if I don’t win 17 races this season, then I’ve failed. That’s when the pressure is just too much because that’s an unreasonable expectation.”

She will be favored again in Sunday’s slalom in Lienz (NBC Sports Gold, 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.) on the eighth anniversary of her first World Cup podium on the same track. A 43rd career World Cup slalom win would tie Vonn for the most victories in a single discipline for a woman. Vonn won 43 downhills.

Shiffrin increased her World Cup overall standings lead over Italian Federica Brignone but still trails Brignone in the giant slalom standings through four of nine scheduled GS events.

“So far, I’ve had an incredible season this year, too, but in a lot of ways, I’ve failed to compare to [last season],” she said. “The way that I’ve been feeling is I’m getting worse, even though I’m not. That’s the mental challenge, and that’s a new thing that I’m learning. It’s a difficult learning curve.”

Shiffrin had been tied with Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll on career World Cup wins since her last victory in Killington, Vt., on Dec. 1.

“The thing that makes me the most frustrated is if I don’t have a good race, and people say, oh, she’s just human,” Shiffrin said. “The biggest thing that motivates all of us is working hard enough to never feel that pain again.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
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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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