Mikaela Shiffrin/Petra Vlhova slalom streak ends at 28 wins

1 Comment

For the first time in nearly four years, a woman other than Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova won a World Cup slalom.

It was Swiss Michelle Gisin, the 2018 Olympic combined champion who earned her first World Cup victory in her 144th career start — eight years to the day since her World Cup debut at the same venue of Semmering, Austria.

Gisin, 27, erased Shiffrin’s lead of .02 from the first run and won by .11 over Austrian Katharina Liensberger.

Shiffrin ended up third, .57 behind, finishing a calendar year without a World Cup slalom victory for the first time since she was 16 in 2011. The Slovakian Vlhova, winner of the last five slaloms dating to last season, was fourth. Full results are here.

Shiffrin and Vlhova combined to win the previous 28 World Cup slaloms dating to January 2017.

“I broke the incredible run of two giants,” said Gisin, who got her first win with her 10th career podium and skied on a second-run course set by her coach. “It was the perfect day.”

Shiffrin last won a slalom exactly one year ago, which was also the last time she led a slalom after the opening run.

“Not sour. It was not a bad day,” said Shiffrin, who notched her 99th World Cup podium (67 of which are victories). “I know I have faster or more stable skiing, but it’s a process, and I’m going step by step.”

Shiffrin completed the most difficult year of her career. In the last six weeks, she returned to racing for the first time in 300 days — since the death of her father, Jeff, on Feb. 2 — and, in five races, finished first, second, third, fourth and fifth.

The emotional win came Dec. 14 in a giant slalom in Courchevel, France.

“I think a lot of people feel like, I won in Courchevel, so that means like I’m totally back and things are really back to normal, which, I don’t see it that way,” she said last week. “I mean, I feel like, maybe normal doesn’t exist. I didn’t like ‘come back’ in Courchevel. It’s always a process. My entire career has been a really long process, and it hasn’t changed just because I won a race again.”

The women next race in Zagreb, Croatia, for another slalom on Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and Peacock Premium).

“I’m trying to remember how these things feel,” Shiffrin said, noting she was fighting for her life trying to bring intensity in her second run. “It’s coming. I think it’s moving in a really good direction.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever

Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!