Mikaela Shiffrin rides success into final events at world champs with more history at stake

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After Mikaela Shiffrin won Monday’s super combined at the world championships, her chief rival made an acknowledgement ahead of the final two races in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

“She was perfect in super-G and also in slalom,” said Slovakian Petra Vlhova, the silver medalist. Media reported she called Shiffrin “unbeatable” in Monday’s event combining one run of each discipline.

Shiffrin, in the middle of a challenging World Cup season, rides record-breaking world championships success into her Olympic gold-medal events to finish the two-week competition. The giant slalom is Thursday. The slalom is Saturday. More history is at stake.

ALPINE WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

Last week, she took super-G bronze in her first race in the discipline in more than one year.

She went exactly one year between putting on the longer super-G skis, getting about four days of training in the speed event. No matter: Shiffrin was even on track for gold if not for a late mistake.

She likely wouldn’t have even entered the super-G if it was held at a venue unlike Cortina, where she has years of World Cup speed racing experience.

Shiffrin also probably would have passed on the combined if the speed run was the usual downhill rather than super-G.

In Monday’s competition, Shiffrin was again third-fastest in the super-G portion. More importantly, she was fastest in the slalom by .52 of a second over Vlhova, the world’s best slalom skier over the last 13 months.

In January 2020, Vlhova beat Shiffrin in back-to-back slaloms, something no skier had done since 2017. Shiffrin acknowledged that the Slovakian was “quite far ahead.” This season, Vlhova again leads the World Cup slalom standings.

Shiffrin ranks third in the world in slalom and fifth in GS, but now she has the momentum.

“Before that gold medal in the combined, I wasn’t sure I would put Mikaela Shiffrin as an absolute medal threat in the giant slalom,” NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said. “It’s been touch and go, but I think she’s got her mojo back, and I put her down for two more medals.”

Already in Cortina, Shiffrin became the most decorated American in worlds history, passing Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn with her sixth gold and eighth and ninth medals. She has another legend in her sights.

With medals in the GS and slalom, she can become the first skier to earn four medals at a single worlds since Swede Anja Pärson in 2007. She can also match Pärson’s female record of 11 career medals at standalone worlds in the modern era (since World War II).

Shiffrin is also one shy of the record for career world titles held by the Swede (again, standalone worlds in the modern era). Note Shiffrin is still just 25 years old.

She called the combined title “a release of pressure.”

“My biggest goal for the rest of the time is to keep that [carefree attitude] going even though my big events are coming,” Shiffrin said. “I started the super-G and the combined because I thought I had a chance, and I wanted to try. My priority events are coming up.”

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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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