Petra Vlhova wins another slalom, takes World Cup overall lead

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Petra Vlhova defeated Mikaela Shiffrin in a World Cup slalom, took the overall standings lead and increased her advantage over the American in the season-long slalom standings.

The Slovakian Vlhova earned her 20th World Cup victory, prevailing by two tenths of a second over world champion Katharina Liensberger of Austria. Shiffrin, the 69-time winner, took third, .64 back, on the 10th anniversary of her World Cup slalom debut at age 15.

Full results from Are, Sweden, are here.

Vlhova overtook Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, which a Slovakian has never won.

Vlhova, with 100 points, moved 64 points ahead of Gut-Behrami through 28 of 33 races this season in a competition that will come down to next week’s World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

“Of course I feel pressure, but I know how to manage this pressure,” said Vlhova, who owns five world championships medals, including giant slalom gold in 2019. The Slovakian said she feels tired after stating all 28 World Cup races so far this season.

Gut-Behrami, whose best events are downhill and super-G, hasn’t raced a slalom since 2017.

Also with Friday’s win, Vlhova added 40 points to her lead on Shiffrin in the slalom standings. She has an 85-point advantage with two slaloms left — one on Saturday (7:45 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and Peacock Premium) and on March 21.

Shiffrin, who trailed Vlhova by .41 after the first run, slipped midway through her second run, costing her four tenths to Liensberger.

I skied better today than I have in a lot of races, especially the second run,” Shiffrin said. “I’m more proud of this third than I am of some of the wins I’ve had in my career because I felt like I earned it and I fought for it.”

If Shiffrin wins both remaining slaloms, and Vlhova finishes third in both, Vlhova still wins the season title.

Vlhova, the primary rival to Shiffrin the last several years, won her first slalom season title last year. She trailed the American by 80 points when Shiffrin left the tour following her father’s death. Vlhova then won the last slalom in Shiffrin’s absence to take the title by 20 points.

Shiffrin has never ceded a slalom title in which she has raced all season, taking the crystal globe six of the last eight years. The outliers were last year and in 2015-16, when she won the five slaloms that she started but missed five others and a city event following a knee injury.

This season, Shiffrin returned from a 300-day break since her last race and an autumn back injury to make five podiums in seven slaloms, including two wins, with a worst result of fifth.

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Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

Olympic Council of Asia
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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”