Mikaela Shiffrin gets second as Petra Vlhova slips; World Cup slalom title down to final race

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Mikaela Shiffrin finished second on her 26th birthday in the season’s penultimate slalom that complicated the title picture going into next week’s World Cup Finals.

Shiffrin, bidding for her 70th World Cup win, had the fastest first run but was denied victory by world champion Katharina Liensberger, who became the first Austrian woman to win a World Cup since Feb. 29, 2020.

Liensberger prevailed by .72 of a second, making up a deficit of .19 from the first run, to end a six-and-a-half-year drought between World Cup slalom victories for Austrian women. It also ensured Austrian women don’t go winless in a season (across all disciplines) for the first time in World Cup history (since 1967).

“I was pushing, and I think Liensberger was on another level,” Shiffrin said.

Another significant result in Are, Sweden: Slovakian Petra Vlhova, who could have clinched the World Cup slalom season title on Saturday, finished eighth, her worst placement since 2019, after nearly skiing out in the first run.

She needed an acrobatic save between the fifth and sixth gates to stay on course and ended up 27th in the first run, 2.95 seconds behind Shiffrin.

Vlhova had the fastest second run to move up 19 spots.

“A lot of risk because I was thinking, OK, nothing to lose,” Vlhova said on ORF.

Paula Moltzan was fifth, the best World Cup slalom result for an American woman other than Shiffrin since 2012.

Full results are here.

Vlhova’s slalom standings lead was cut from 85 points over Shiffrin to 22 points over Liensberger. Shiffrin is now 37 points behind going into the last slalom at the World Cup Finals next Saturday in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

A race winner gets 100 points, second place gets 80 and third place gets 60 on a scale that descends further down the standings. Vlhova will win the crystal globe if she finishes first or second in the last race. If Shiffrin wins the race, she needs somebody other than Vlhova to finish second.

“The only thing you can really expect is it should be an exciting show,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

“Anything is possible in Finals. I’m not totally out of the fight, which, after yesterday, is a little bit of a surprise.”

She owns six World Cup slalom season titles and has never lost it when doing a full season of racing since her breakout at age 17 in 2012-13.

“On paper, this is, I don’t know, my least successful season, but it’s still been quite incredible,” said Shiffrin, who has three wins and eight podiums, plus four world championships medals this winter after going 300 days between racing following her father’s death and an autumn back injury. “I can be happy with that but also not totally satisfied.

Vlhova increased her lead in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, to 126 points over Swiss speed skier Lara Gut-Behrami, who doesn’t race slaloms. That will also be decided at next week’s World Cup Finals, which are made up of one downhill, one super-G, one giant slalom and one slalom.

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Hail Ilia Malinin’s first U.S. figure skating title for six-quad ambition, Jason Brown’s advice

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SAN JOSE, California – Ilia Malinin clearly will have mixed emotions when he remembers winning his first U.S. figure skating title.

That was apparent from his reaction after finishing Sunday’s free skate.

The 18-year-old with limitless potential and seemingly limitless confidence had been rattled by his worst free skate of the season.

He shook his head sadly. Then he shook it again.

“Of course, this wasn’t the skate I wanted, but there’s always ups and downs, and you just after get over it and move on,” Malinin said.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

He planned the hardest technical program anyone ever had attempted, with six quadruple jumps and two challenging combinations in the second half of the four-minute program. And he gamely kept trying to execute it, even after significant mistakes that would leave him second to surprising Andrew Torgashev in the free skate.

Malinin (287.74 total points) still finished comfortably ahead of the evergreen Jason Brown (277.31). Torgashev was third overall at 256.56.

Malinin skated with doggedness rather the dynamism that infused his brilliant short program Friday, by far his best short program of the season.

“I think I was just a little bit sluggish, and I just wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen,” he said.

Malinin fell on his opening jump, the quadruple Axel, then reeled off three other quads flawlessly. He popped two other planned quads into doubles, then turned his final jumping pass, planned as a sequence of two jumps, into an unprecedented triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe loop sequence. For context: only Malinin has done a triple Lutz-triple Axel sequence.

“I think its’s not that I was planning too much,” he said. “I think it was I wasn’t really prepared for this amount. And it was mostly because we were focusing on that short program.”

Brown, 28, who first competed at senior nationals 12 years ago, skated magnificently. If it weren’t for a fall on his ambitious final free skate jump, a triple flip coming out of a knee slide, Brown’s overall performance in both the short and free would have been as good as any he had done in the U.S. Championships.

With his longevity and insight, Brown, a two-time Olympian and seven-time national medalist (gold in 2015) was able to put what had befallen Malinin into accurate perspective and encourage him not to lose confidence over it.

Brown heard the press conference questions Malinin was getting over what went wrong, questions both legitimate and expected, and he wanted his younger teammate not to dwell on them.

“You did a triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe at the end of your program, and I did a knee slide and could barely stand up to do the flip,” Brown said to Malinin, sitting next to him at the dais.

“The way you keep pushing the sport is incredible. So don’t stop being you.”

Malinin, an unexpected second at last year’s nationals, came here under a spotlight brighter than any he had experienced, largely due to his history-making success earlier this season as the first to land a quad Axel in competition.

For all his disarming bravado, evidenced by choosing quadg0d as his social media name, Malinin is not immune to the pressure of a big event and his position as favorite.

“There is an amount of experience (necessary) that it takes time to get,” Brown said. “I’ve been through it all. I’ve had a lot of ups, I’ve had a lot of downs. As you (Malinin) said, it’s how you take this experience and learn from it and grow from it. That’s what you’re going to do.”

Both Malinin and Brown leave Monday to perform eight shows in three Swiss cities over 11 days with the Art on Ice tour. They are both expected to be on the U.S. team for the world championships this March in Japan.

Malinin leaves with the title and the satisfaction of not having minimized risk given his big lead after the short program.

“This was an opportunity for me to try this new layout,” Malinin said. “Of course, it didn’t go off the best. We’ll take advice from this and look forward to worlds.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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