Grateful Mikaela Shiffrin returns to World Cup, 300 days since last race

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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s goal for her first World Cup ski races in 300 days remains, in essence, the same as it would have been back in March: to make some good turns.

“Ideally, make every turn a good turn,” she said, “and hopefully it’s fast.”

On Saturday and Sunday, Shiffrin competes for the first time since Jan. 26.

The second runs of World Cup slaloms in Levi, Finland, air live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 6:45 a.m. ET both days. The first and second runs of each slalom also stream live on Peacock Premium (available here).

Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World Cup overall champion, ends the longest break between races of her career.

She notched World Cup win No. 66 on Jan. 26. A week later, her father, Jeff, died unexpectedly after an accident at home at age 65. That came less than four months after the death of her maternal grandmother.

Shiffrin flew back to Colorado and did not return to the World Cup in Europe until March. She was set to ski the final races of the season in Sweden, but they were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020-21 World Cup season began last month with a giant slalom and without Shiffrin, sidelined by a back injury that she has had to manage for years and, perhaps, for the rest of her career.

She’s trained slalom — and no other disciplines — for the last two weeks, arriving in Europe on Monday. She is excited to race, going so far as to call it “like going on a vacation” after the last 10 months.

She’s still emotionally exhausted, in part from taking on more of the business side of her career that her dad handled, and expects to be for a while. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever heal.

Shiffrin does know that she can still ski fast.

“My eye would tell me that her skiing is in a fairly good spot,” said coach Mike Day, part of her team since 2016. “This can really be looked at, to a certain extent, as a return from injury. Just a different one. Obviously the back [injury] is one piece of it, but everything else that she and her family have had to deal with in the past year has been heavy, has been massive. Those are the bigger unknowns, but, ultimately, she’s a champion and has proven time and again that she has great instincts for competition.”

The last time Shiffrin raced her trademark discipline, back in January, she was beaten in back-to-back World Cup slaloms for the first time since 2017.

“Petra was quite far ahead,” Shiffrin said Thursday of Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova, who won both of those slaloms and then the last one of the season in February. “I haven’t gotten a comparison against any of the other athletes who are here [in Levi] for over 300 days in slalom, so I really don’t know.”

Shiffrin’s plan for the next four months is similar to recent seasons. She will not enter every race. A final decision hasn’t been made on next week’s parallel event in Austria, but Day said it’s unlikely as of Thursday.

She’s had few days on giant slalom skis since mid-summer and none on downhill or super-G skis since January.

The pandemic is impacting daily life, from navigating travel limitations to making sure to hit the local grocery store in Levi during a one-hour window.

“In every way, it’s a different season than any other that we’ve experienced together,” Day said. “We don’t have the luxury of going home like the rest of the tour [skiers who are from European countries], so we’re constantly in hotels or apartments, if we’re lucky enough to find an apartment. It’s dramatic. Those are the little things.”

The World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, is “quite a bit less in my thoughts than it has been in years past,” Shiffrin said.

She poured more time into what would have been unforeseen a year ago, such as the Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund. Nearly $3 million has been raised to aid U.S. skiers and snowboarders’ Olympic dreams amid the pandemic. She called hearing other athletes’ stories of resilience therapeutic and unifying.

“The name of the game right now, and this year in general, is gratitude,” Shiffrin said. “And for the rest of my life, I hope, that remains the name of the game.”

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U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final