Paula Moltzan grabs first Alpine skiing World Cup podium

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American Paula Moltzan continued her Alpine skiing ascent, even with a crash on Thursday.

Moltzan, a 26-year-old who learned to ski on the same small Minnesota hill as Lindsey Vonn, finished second in a World Cup parallel event in Lech, Austria. It marked her first career World Cup podium. It was nearly a first victory.

“I was really hoping for, like, a top-30 today,” Moltzan sheepishly said before the finals.

She was neck-and-neck with Slovakian Petra Vlhova in the second of their two head-to-head final runs before crashing with three gates left under the lights.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed, but I’m really excited,” said Moltzan, who has raced World Cups on and off since 2012, notched her first top 10 last month and made her first parallel start Thursday. “I can’t wait to talk to my mom.”

Vlhova, the world giant slalom champion, earned her third World Cup win in six days and extended her overall standings lead. She was .21 of a second faster than Moltzan in their first final run. Moltzan erased the deficit early in the second run before falling.

“Every run was like a final,” Vlhova said of the bracketed, knockout-style format. “I am really tired and destroyed.”

Moltzan beat veteran World Cup race winners Marta Bassino of Italy and Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland to reach the finals. Gut-Behrami ended up third. Full results are here.

Moltzan, bidding for her first Olympics in 2022, became the first U.S. woman other than Mikaela Shiffrin to make the podium of a World Cup technical race since Lindsey Vonn on Dec. 12, 2015.

Shiffrin sat out Thursday’s event to gain training ahead of December races and following a back injury that hampered her preseason.

The men race a parallel event at the same venue on Friday, live on Peacock Premium. A full streaming schedule is here.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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