Mikaela Shiffrin starts Olympic season with World Cup win No. 70

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SOELDEN, Austria — A friendly pat on the back from her rival Petra Vlhova and a long hug from boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in the finish area were Mikaela Shiffrin’s rewards for excelling in the season-opening World Cup giant slalom on Saturday.

Shiffrin showed two runs of near flawless skiing on one of the toughest hills on the women’s circuit to earn her 70th career win.

The American Olympic champion’s performance was too much even for Lara Gut-Behrami, the reigning GS world champion from Switzerland.

With 2020 overall men’s champion Kilde looking on, Shiffrin sat .02 behind Gut-Behrami after the opening leg but put in another clean run in the second to edge her Swiss rival by .14 in perfect sunny conditions on the Rettenbach glacier.

“Starting off the season strong is important, so I am super happy,” Shiffrin said. “It’s a pleasure to ski today, they did so amazing with this (course) preparation, it felt so amazing to ski this hill.”

The pair finished well ahead of the rest of the field, with defending overall champion Vlhova of Slovakia trailing by 1.30 seconds in third.

Shiffrin became only the third skier in World Cup history to reach the 70-win mark, after Ingemar Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat before they finished their careers on 86 and 82 wins, respectively.

“I guess now it is,” said Shiffrin when asked whether the number of 70 meant something special to her. “It is a great achievement, I am proud. Seventy is incredible but the goal today was to ski well.”

And Shiffrin did just that on Saturday.

She opened race with a clean run, briefly shrugged her shoulders after finishing, but her time easily held up when other pre-race favorites came down.

Only Gut-Behrami, who had an aggressive run in perfect sunny conditions on the Rettenbach glacier, led Shiffrin’s time by a few hundredths throughout her run.

Gut-Behrami had the faster start and was .09 ahead at the first split but lost a fraction of her lead over Shiffrin at each of the following check points.

“It was a really super clean run. I felt really good in my skiing,” Shiffrin said after the first run. “Watching Lara, she is also super on point and maybe a little bit more active, like a little extra something.”

The battle for victory took an intriguing turn in the second leg.

After Shiffrin put pressure on Gut-Bahrami by posting the fastest second-run tun by far, the Swiss skier found herself .10 down at the first check point, but won time on Shiffrin entering the steep middle section, regaining the lead with an advantage of .24.

However, she failed to match Shiffrin on the bottom section.

“It doesn’t really matter, first or second,” Gut-Behrami said. “It’s just good for me to start the season like that, realizing that I am skiing fast.”

The Swiss skier, who won the overall title in 2016, used the summer preparation for “working on confidence, on little things. I am trying to get the best from each run and I am really happy I could bring that back in the race.”

Vlhova said losing 1.30 seconds didn’t hurt her too much.

“I don’t think that I am that far behind them,” the Slovakian skier said. “Today it was like this, but next race it can be completely different.”

Shiffrin’s 13th win in GS came seven years after she won her first race in the discipline at the same venue, sharing the 2014 victory with Austria’s Anna Fenninger.

Several of Shiffrin main challengers had a rough start to their seasons.

Most notably, Italian GS specialists Marta Bassino and Federica Brignone both skied out.

Bassino, who won the race a year ago and dominated the discipline with four wins last season, lost control of her right outside ski halfway through her first run, when she was already .57 behind then-leader Shiffrin.

Brignone was 1.52 behind after the first run in 15th before hooking a gate with her left arm in the second.

Other big names struggled as well, with French standout Tessa Worley finishing 2.06 behind in eighth and New Zealand’s Alice Robinson, who won the season opener in 2019, coming 2.41 seconds off the lead in 11th.

Coming so early in the winter season, the traditional season-opener in October is usually a race where many skiers fail to find their rhythm, seven months after the end of the previous season.

“Sometimes people are not pushing so hard, they just try almost to use it as training, but you really have to attack this hill,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin led a strong showing by the U.S. ski team, which had four of their five starters scoring World Cup points, including a career-best ninth place for Nina O’Brien. Also, AJ Hurt placed 20th, and Paula Moltzan finished in 23rd.

Amid tight anti-coronavirus measures, the race was attended by 9,000 spectators.

A minute’s silence prior to the race was dedicated to Gian Franco Kasper, the longstanding FIS president who died in July, just weeks after Johan Eliasch was elected as his successor.

The men’s World Cup starts Sunday with a GS on the same hill. The race will be streamed live on Peacock.

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U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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