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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Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

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Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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