U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team named, eyes extending historic run

2016 Olympic Games
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Maggie Steffens and Ashleigh Johnson again lead the U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team, which goes for a third consecutive gold in Tokyo.

The 13-player roster announced Wednesday includes eight returning Olympians:

Rachel Fattal (2016)
Aria Fischer (2016)
Makenzie Fischer (2016)
Kaleigh Gilchrist (2016)
Stephania Haralabidis
Paige Hauschild
Ashleigh Johnson (2016)
Amanda Longan
Maddie Musselman (2016)
Jamie Neushul
Melissa Seidemann (2012, 2016)
Maggie Steffens (2012, 2016)
Alys Williams

The Americans are 169-5 dating to December 2015, not dropping a game at an Olympics, World Championship, World Cup or a World League Super Final in that span.

The U.S. won a believed-to-be record 69 consecutive games from April 2018 to January 2020. Since that one defeat, it won all 16 of its games.

The U.S. hopes to become the third nation to win three consecutive Olympic water polo titles, joining the Hungarian men (2000-08) and British men (1900-20). Women’s water polo debuted at the Olympics in 2000.

ON HER TURF: More on the U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team

Adam Krikorian has been head coach since 2009 with a bevy of talent at his disposal. The most prominent player is Maggie Steffens, a member of every title team in the 2010s at the Olympics, worlds, World Cup and World League.

Johnson made her Olympic debut in Rio as the starting goalie and the first Black woman to play on a U.S. Olympic water polo team. After Rio, she took a break from the national team to write her 80-page senior thesis at Princeton, graduating in 2017 and returning to the program. She was MVP of the 2019 World Championship final, an 11-6 win over Spain.

Of the 13 players, 11 are from California. Johnson is from Miami. Haralabidis is set to become the first woman known to be born in Greece to compete for the U.S. at an Olympics in any sport, according to Olympedia.org.

The U.S. Olympic men’s water polo team will be named at a later date.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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