Mikaela Shiffrin breaks Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn records with combined world title

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Mikaela Shiffrin won the super combined at the world Alpine skiing championships for an American record sixth world title and ninth career world medal, breaking records she shared with Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn.

Shiffrin prevailed by .86 of a second over Slovakian Petra Vlhova. Swiss Michelle Gisin took bronze, .89 behind, combining times from super-G and slalom runs in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

ALPINE WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

Shiffrin previously shared the American record for five world titles with the recently retired Ted Ligety. Last Thursday, she tied Vonn’s American record for total world medals with her eighth, a bronze in the super-G, her first speed race in more than one year.

Shiffrin has been playing catch-up all season. She went 300 days between races following her father’s Feb. 2 death and a preseason back injury. She went a full year between putting on super-G skis and only had four days of training in that discipline leading into worlds.

“When I was a little girl, and I wanted to be the best in the world, I wrote in my diary, ‘I want to be the best skier in the world,’” Shiffrin said. “I’ve done some things nobody’s done before, for sure. I’ve always been trying to just push the limit, push my own limit first, then trying to push the limit in the sport. I feel like, on my really good days, I’m doing that.”

Shiffrin has competed at seven Olympics or world championships and earned at least one gold at every one.

“I wouldn’t want to just be the next Lindsey Vonn because otherwise then I’m just copying someone and that’s as far as I’m ever going to get,” she said in the past. “I want to try and get farther than anybody’s ever gotten.”

Later Monday, Austrian Marco Schwarz was the surprise winner of the men’s combined. More on that here.

Shiffrin now owns Olympic or world titles in four of the five traditional Alpine skiing events — super-G, giant slalom, slalom and combined — only missing downhill (which she has won on the World Cup).

Only Swede Anja Pärson won Olympic or world gold medals in all five since the super-G was added in 1987. Pärson, the 2000s star, is now the only skier with more individual world titles than Shiffrin at standalone worlds in the modern era.

Shiffrin, racing the combined at worlds for the first time, trailed Italian Federica Brignone by .06 after the morning super-G. But Brignone, skiing first in the slalom, fell after the third gate.

Shiffrin then posted the fastest slalom time. Vlhova, Shiffrin’s primary slalom rival the last few seasons, was second-fastest in the slalom, but a significant .52 slower, boosting Shiffrin’s hopes for a record-extending fifth consecutive slalom world title on Saturday.

Gisin, who relegated Shiffrin to combined silver at the 2018 Olympics, went two spots after Shiffrin in the slalom. She drew within .02 of Shiffrin, the greatest slalom skier in history, at an early split before falling back.

“Mikaela showed us how it’s done,” Gisin said. “I couldn’t hold up to her quite yet, but maybe I’ll find some solutions for next Saturday [in the slalom].”

Swiss Wendy Holdener, the 2017 and 2019 World champion in the combined who was .97 behind after the super-G, fell in the same area as Brignone in the slalom.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s and women’s parallel events. Shiffrin next races Thursday in the giant slalom, which she won at the 2018 Olympics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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