Petra Vlhova wins over Mikaela Shiffrin for second consecutive day

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LEVI, Finland — Petra Vlhova got the better of Mikaela Shiffrin for the second time in two days Sunday, winning another women’s World Cup slalom in Finnish Lapland.

The overall World Cup champion from Slovakia was .18 ahead after the first run and ultimately beat her American rival by .47 of a second.

Shiffrin nearly skied out in her final run but did well to recover as she came off the race line turning into the steep pitch and only just managed to clear the next gate.

“I am not disappointed with anything,” said Shiffrin, who has won the race four times.

“I was pushing, made a mistake, and we don’t know what would have happened without the mistake. But after that, I pushed even harder.”

Like she did in Saturday’s race, Vlhova posted the fastest time in both runs. Her winning margin on Sunday was .16 bigger than the day before.

“I like Levi. It was so difficult today. Honestly, I didn’t like too much the second run, so it was like a big fight,” Vlhova said.

“The second run was really tough because the (course set) was very difficult. On the steep I had some trouble but, of course, when I saw it on inspection, I said to (my coach, Mauro) Pini: ‘I have to push.’”

It was the Slovakian’s 22nd career win, 14th in slalom, and fifth in Levi. No skier other than Vlhova or Shiffrin has won the race in Finland since Tina Maze triumphed in 2014.

Lena Dürr placed third as the top three were identical to Saturday’s race. The German was .78 behind for her third career podium finish.

Slalom World Cup and world champion Katharina Liensberger of Austria was 1.64 back in eighth.

In the first run, Vlhova was just under two-tenths of a second faster than Shiffrin on a course set by one of the American’s coaches, Jeff Lackie.

Only .01 ahead at the second check point, Vlhova gained more time on Shiffrin with a smooth transition from the flat into the steep middle section.

“On the flat part I felt not so good because today is harder and the snow surface is more aggressive, so I went really full gas in the steep part,” said Vlhova, who had been in Finland for three weeks to prepare intensively for the first two slaloms of the seasons.

The victory earned Vlhova a fifth reindeer, a prize given to the race winner each year, and she named it after her brother, Boris, as “he is always with me and supports me.”

“I will do at home some small farm,” the Slovakian said jokingly. The animals remain on a local farm in Finland.

Vlhova and Shiffrin now share the lead in the overall standings with 260 points each. Slovenia’s Andreja Slokar, who won last week’s parallel event in Austria where neither Vlhova nor Shiffrin raced, is third with 184 points.

Having dealt with back pain that hampered her preparation for the last few weeks, Shiffrin was aiming for her 46th career win in slalom. It would have seen her match a 32-year-old record for most World Cup wins in a single discipline, set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in giant slalom.

Her next chance to reach the mark comes in front of an American home crowd in Killington, Vermont, next Sunday on NBC Sports and Peacock.

“I have a little bit more confidence after feeling that I could push my skiing … and that’s a really big step,” Shiffrin said.

“It’s also a home race and I want to do well and have a good record there. So, there is some expectations, some pressure there as well, but it’s always very exciting to race in Killington.”

The race weekend on the East Coast also consists of a giant slalom on Saturday.

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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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