Petra Vlhova snaps Mikaela Shiffrin’s slalom win streak

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Slovakian Petra Vlhova ended Mikaela Shiffrin‘s slalom win streak at just shy of a year, routing Shiffrin by 1.31 seconds under the lights in Zagreb, Croatia.

Shiffrin won the previous six World Cup slaloms dating to February. Vlhova, fastest in both runs Saturday, recorded the the largest margin of victory for anybody over Shiffrin in a slalom since November 2014 (not counting Shiffrin DNFs).

Full results are here.

“Some days, I am so-so. With Miki, you have to be always perfect,” Vlhova said. “If I want to win, I have to risk all the time.”

Shiffrin’s deficit after the opening run — 1.16 seconds — marked her largest in a slalom in nearly three years. She lost eight tenths to Vlhova during a section in which she slipped coming off one gate, putting her left hand on the ground to rebalance.

“Even if I had no mistake, I think Petra would have been faster,” Shiffrin said. “The only way I could have won is if she skied out or made some really, really big mistake. … That’s not something special for her. She’s able to do that. It wasn’t like she had the best run of her life. She just skied really well. I think she can do this again and again and again.”

A day earlier, Shiffrin posted video of a rare fall in slalom training that left her with a sore hip. Coach Mike Day said he could count on one hand the number of times he’s seen Shiffrin hit the snow in slalom training, NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said.

Vlhova, who is 24 and three months younger than Shiffrin, has been the American’s only slalom rival the last few years. The duo combined to win the last 24 World Cup slaloms (19 for Shiffrin, five for Vlhova). Vlhova’s staff has been known to film Shiffrin’s training sessions.

Shiffrin’s mom and longtime coach said in 2017 that the four-inches-taller Vlhova “skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” according to the Denver Post.

“Since Petra has been much stronger these last few years, that definitely brings my motivation to another level,” Shiffrin said Saturday. “They are one of the few teams who have been able to, in a way, outdo what I have been able to accomplish with my team. I have a lot of respect for that.

“If we weren’t competitors, we would be really good friends. But there’s also this side, you have to stay just far enough away that you can keep the fire.”

Vlhova finished a distant second to Shiffrin in last season’s World Cup overall standings, plus won the world championships giant slalom. This season, Shiffrin holds a comfortable 313-point lead in the overall standings over Vlhova through 13 of 39 scheduled races. Each race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale.

Shiffrin remains on 64 career World Cup wins, 18 shy of Lindsey Vonn‘s female record. She also remains tied with Vonn for the most wins for a woman in a single discipline of 43.

The men race in Zagreb on Sunday (11:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold). The women move to Austria for a downhill and combined next weekend. Shiffrin was hopeful to race as of early this week.

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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement