As Mikaela Shiffrin sizes up Olympic schedule, history shows potential obstacles

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin races in the U.S. for the only time this season this weekend, in the spotlight at a World Cup stop in Killington, Vermont (broadcast schedule here).

All slopes lead to Beijing in February. Shiffrin, a gold medalist in 2014 and 2018, has repeated in interviews that she wants to enter all five individual events at her third Olympics: downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and combined.

“A very aggressive game plan,” she said earlier this month. “I don’t know if that’s going to work.”

The plan was the same in 2018. It didn’t work because of weather, evidence that any strategy in Alpine skiing is written in pencil.

High winds postponed the start of Olympic competition by three days in South Korea and compressed the schedule. The giant slalom, slalom and super-G were supposed to take place over a six-day span, but instead were on back-to-back-to-back days.

Shiffrin, tired from winning the GS and its post-race commitments and then placing fourth in the slalom the next day, skipped the super-G and then the downhill before taking silver in the combined.

“It wouldn’t have been safe to race,” the super-G and downhill given her exhausted state, she said.

Consider this history as Shiffrin takes another run-up to the Olympics with five events in mind: No skier who entered all five at one Olympics won more than three medals total or more than two golds, according to Croatian Janica Kostelić won three golds and a silver in 2002, racing four events (arguably more impressive than doing it in five, but still different).

Alpine skiing is not swimming, gymnastics or track and field, where Olympic icons like Michael PhelpsSimone Biles and Carl Lewis gobbled medals (and were expected to). The 12 Winter Olympians with the most medals come from biathlon, cross-country skiing and speed skating. No Alpine skiers are in that group.

“There really are a handful of people that can win in all disciplines in a single year, and that’s over the history of the sport, not just the last decade,” NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said.

Shiffrin took the conventional path to becoming an all-around skier, starting with slalom and giant slalom, then cautiously dipping into the riskier super-G and downhill. These will be her third Olympics. Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn entered five events at the Olympics for the first time in their third Games, too.

Taking on a full load is more the exception in these days of increased specialization. Smaller nations are producing talent in slalom and giant slalom. Any time Shiffrin spends racing speed events (or training them) is time taken away from staying sharp in her prioritized technical events.

PyeongChang marked the first Olympics that zero male or female skiers — who earned at least one medal — raced all five events since the super-G was added to the program in 1988.

“It’s harder to do today than it’s ever been,” Porino said of being an all-around skier. “When you’re facing the people that do have the opportunity to train to their heart’s content [in one or two disciplines], that makes the job all the harder.”

The three most recent women to race all five individual events at one Olympics, and come away with medals, reflected on the types of challenges that could await Shiffrin in Beijing.

Maria Höfl-Riesch: Two golds managing conditions

German Maria Höfl-Riesch, a four-time Olympic medalist who retired in 2014, was the rare all-around skier whose best events were the extremes of downhill and slalom.

On the season-long World Cup, most weekends with a downhill also include a super-G. And most weekends with a slalom also include a giant slalom. So it made sense to race everything, even if giant slalom was a weakness.

“I never thought about skipping events,” she said. “Of course, for big events [Olympics or world championships], it would maybe make sense. But you never know. I knew I could do [well] if there’s the right day and if I have a little bit of luck on my side. It never happened in GS, but it could have happened. I always had a chance.”

Höfl-Riesch rolled into the 2010 Vancouver Games ranked second in the world in the downhill, the first event at the Olympics, and first in the slalom, the last event.

She placed eighth in the Olympic downhill after the two women in front of her crashed, extending her wait in the start house several minutes (again, variables in ski racing).

Höfl-Riesch then won the combined (one run downhill plus one run slalom). Gold medals carry extra time commitments, such as media, but she saw it as a positive for the rest of her program. Particularly the slalom, which wasn’t for another nine days.

“Once you win a medal, everything goes easier,” she said. “The big pressure was gone, and I was much more relaxed.”

The slalom carried two significant challenges. Höfl-Riesch remembered it rained most of the week leading up to the event, but her coach insisted she train through the terrible conditions.

Then there was Austrian Marlies Schild, Höfl-Riesch’s primary slalom rival who didn’t race anything else at those Games.

“I was a little bit tired from all the season already and also from the Olympics,” Höfl-Riesch said. “But, the big pressure was on her because she was only concentrating on the slalom. It was her only and biggest chance. And so I think it was even a mental advantage for me that I already had the [combined] gold medal in my pocket. When you have that, automatically more energy.”

In the fog and snow that she trained for, Höfl-Riesch beat Schild to become the second woman to win two gold medals while skiing five events at an Olympics.

Höfl-Riesch said that before her retirement in 2014 (after illness limited her to four events at the Sochi Olympics), Shiffrin’s team spoke with her German coach about how Höfl-Riesch logistically made it work racing a full schedule.

Lindsey Vonn: Goal was one gold medal

Vonn also raced all five events at the 2010 Olympics, but her goal was singular: one gold medal. She got it in her best event, the opening downhill, after a trying buildup.

Vonn went more than a week without skiing leading into the Games due to a deep right shin bruise. Poor weather delayed the start of competition by three days and altered the downhill course for training runs.

“So there was literally no prep,” said Vonn, who still benefited from the precious extra time to heal and won gold by the largest margin in 16 years.

In the next races, Vonn was fastest in the downhill portion of the combined but hooked a tip in the slalom run (she failed to finish her three World Cup slaloms leading into the Games).

Then in the super-G, she earned a satisfying bronze medal — after five of the first 11 starters crashed or skied off course — while lamenting not risking more late in her run.

Vonn had two medals, including her goal of one gold, in her three best events. She never considered skipping either of the last two races, giant slalom or slalom, despite not being a medal favorite.

Vonn was fastest in a foggy first run of the GS before crashing about 20 seconds from the finish line. She straddled a gate in the opening slalom run two days later.

“I just have a different approach, I think, maybe than others,” said Vonn, who at the 2006 Olympics skied four events after a nasty downhill training crash. “I always thought I was a contender, in any race that I entered.”

Vonn’s mindset: If you enter more races, you have more chances. Even if meant, for Vonn, that 90 percent of the time she didn’t get sufficient practice.

“The pressure is sometimes less,” she said. “Because you always know, after the first race, you have four more.”

Tina Maze’s advice that Mikaela Shiffrin won’t forget

In 2013, Tina Maze had arguably the greatest season in Alpine skiing history. She raced in all 35 World Cup events, plus all five world championships events (one gold, two silvers) and amassed 2,414 World Cup points, shattering the single-season record.

At the end, Maze confided in Shiffrin, who had just turned 18, won her first world slalom title and had not yet tested herself in speed events.

“Don’t do every [World Cup] event. It’s so exhausting,” Shiffrin said Maze told her, recalling the conversation in 2017. At the time, Shiffrin had a goal to get to a point where she could race everything. She came closest in 2018-19, starting 26 of 35 World Cups and winning a record 17 times. Shiffrin remains selective on downhills and super-Gs on the five-month-long World Cup, heeding Maze’s advice.

Maze, a late bloomer from the small nation of Slovenia, raced in all five events at every Olympics and world championships from 2010 through 2015. She won multiple medals each time and at least one gold in four of the five major championships.

“I didn’t want to miss any race, because every race, I saw an opportunity to learn and to improve,” said the retired Maze, who preferred racing to practicing more than the methodical Shiffrin.

Maze said that competing and training in every discipline left little time for adjustments, such as trying out new equipment to adapt to the weather or course.

That played a role in her first event of the 2014 Olympics, the super combined. Maze didn’t have the right boots for the warmer-than-expected conditions and ended up fourth, one tenth of a second off the podium.

The next race was the downhill. The night before, Maze visualized her run, crossing the finish line for victory. She cried. Slovenia never had a Winter Olympic champion, and after the combined miss, this was going to be her best shot.

“The stress in Olympic Games, handling it and being a favorite, it’s not easy to handle all of those expectations that you have and that everybody else around you has,” said Maze, who struggled in the season leading up to Sochi, changing coaches twice. “Even I was watching this year’s Olympics and seeing [Simone] Biles, how she’s struggled there being so perfect otherwise, as an athlete, as a performer.”

Maze’s visualization proved prophetic. She tied for downhill gold with Swiss Dominique Gisin, then won the GS outright six days later.

Mikaela Shiffrin’s Olympic turn 

Shiffrin’s racing schedule will be talked about plenty the next two-plus months. It also came under scrutiny at both world championships in this Olympic cycle.

In 2019, in the middle of her incredible 17-win World Cup season, she chose not to race the downhill nor the combined at worlds after winning the super-G in Åre, Sweden. She instead spent the time preparing for the GS (she earned bronze) and slalom (gold).

Her two golds and one bronze in three events at 2019 Worlds marked a better medal haul than any skier has brought home from doing all five events at an Olympics.

“My goal is to be a true contender every time I step into the start, and to have the kind of longevity in my career that will allow me to look back when all is said and done and say that – for a vast majority of the duration of my career – I was able to compete and fight for that top step rather than being sidelined by getting burnt out or injured from pushing beyond my capacity,” she posted on Instagram, explaining her decision. “It is clear to me that many believe I am approaching my career in a way that nobody has before, and people don’t really understand it. But you know what?! That is completely fine by me, because I am ME, and no one else.”

In 2021, Shiffrin entered worlds having just gone a full year between putting on longer skis for training speed events. She chose to enter the super-G and the combined anyway, on about four days of super-G practice. The result: a bronze in the super-G (on track for gold before a late mistake) and gold in the combined (with a super-G run rather than downhill) by the largest margin under the current format since 2007.

She also earned giant slalom silver and slalom bronze, meaning she has finished fourth or better in her last 13 Olympic or world champs starts, with medals in 12 of them.

“Podium in every event that I skied at the world championships is going to raise the expectations for the Olympics,” she acknowledged before this season.

But it doesn’t change the unpredictability of ski racing, evidenced by the obstacles faced by the all-around skiers who came before her.

Shiffrin, who already had early season training curtailed by a back injury, called the Olympics “funky,” for lack of a better word, because of the variability. These Olympics in particular, given nobody will have raced at the venue before the Games begin.

“I can to try to relax a little bit about the plan and try to be optimistic,” Shiffrin said, “and also, when the time comes. we’ll have to be realistic as well.”

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Ryan Crouser breaks world record in shot put at Los Angeles Grand Prix


Two-time Olympic champion Ryan Crouser registered one of the greatest performances in track and field history, breaking his world record and throwing three of the six farthest shot puts of all time at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on Saturday.

Crouser unleashed throws of 23.56 meters, 23.31 and 23.23 at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. His previous world record from the Tokyo Olympic Trials was 23.37. He now owns the top four throws in history, and the 23.23 is tied for the fifth-best throw in history.

“The best thing is I’m still on high volume [training], heavy throws in the ring and heavy weights in the weight room, so we’re just starting to work in some speed,” the 6-foot-7 Crouser, who is perfecting a new technique coined the “Crouser slide,” told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sha’Carri Richardson won her 100m heat in 10.90 seconds into a slight headwind, then did not start the final about 90 minutes later due to cramping, Johnson said. Richardson is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m in 2023 (10.76) and No. 2 in the 200m (22.07).

Jamaican Ackeem Blake won the men’s 100m in a personal best 9.89 seconds. He now ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala and American Fred Kerley, who meet in the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday (2-4 p.m. ET, CNBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock).

The next major meet is the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in early July, when the top three in most individual events qualify for August’s world championships.

Richardson will bid to make her first global championships team, two years after having her Olympic Trials win stripped for testing positive for marijuana and one year after being eliminated in the first round of the 100m at USATF Outdoors.

LA GRAND PRIX: Full Results

Also Saturday, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico won the 100m hurdles in 12.31, the fastest time ever this early in a year. Nigerian Tobi Amusan, who at last July’s worlds lowered the world record to 12.12, was eighth in the eight-woman field in 12.69.

Maggie Ewen upset world champion Chase Ealey in the shot put by throwing 20.45 meters, upping her personal best by more than three feet. Ewen went from 12th-best in American history to third behind 2016 Olympic champion Michelle Carter and Ealey.

Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic ran the fastest women’s 400m since the Tokyo Olympics, clocking 48.98 seconds. Paulino is the Olympic and world silver medalist. Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas is on a maternity break.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy won the 800m in 1:44.75, beating a field that included most of the top Americans in the event. Notably absent was 2019 World champion Donovan Brazier, who hasn’t raced since July 20 of last year amid foot problems.

CJ Allen won the 400m hurdles in a personal best 47.91, consolidating his argument as the second-best American in the event behind Olympic and world silver medalist Rai Benjamin, who withdrew from the meet earlier this week.

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Primoz Roglic set to win Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 20
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Primož Roglič all but secured the Giro d’Italia title on Saturday by overtaking leader Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage despite having a mechanical problem on the mountain time trial.

Roglič started the stage 26 seconds behind Thomas — who was trying to become the oldest Giro champion in history — but finished the route 40 seconds quicker than the British cyclist after the demanding climb of the Monte Lussari.

That saw Roglič move into the leader’s pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Thomas going into the race’s mainly ceremonial final stage.

Roglič was cheered on all the way by thousands of fans from just across the border to his native Slovenia. They packed the slopes of the brutal ascent up Monte Lussari, which had an elevation of more than 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

The 33-year-old Roglič celebrated at the end with his wife and son, who was wearing a replica of the pink jersey.

“Just something amazing, eh? It’s not at the end about the win itself, but about the people, and the energy here, so incredible, really moments to live and to remember,” said Roglič, who had tears in his eyes during the post-stage television interview, which he did with his son in his arms.

It will be a fourth Grand Tour victory for Roglič, who won the Spanish Vuelta three years in a row from 2019-2021

Roglič also almost won the Tour de France in 2020, when he was leading going into another mountain time trial on the penultimate stage. But that time it was Roglič who lost time and the race to compatriot Tadej Pogačar in one of the most memorable upsets in a Grand Tour in recent years.

It appeared as if the Jumbo-Visma cyclist’s hopes were evaporating again when he rode over a pothole about halfway through the brutal climb up Monte Lussari and his chain came off, meaning he had to quickly change bicycles.

His teammates and staff had their hands over their heads in disbelief.

Despite that setback, Roglič — who had been 16 seconds ahead of Thomas at the previous intermediate time check — went on to increase his advantage.

“I dropped the chain, I mean it’s part of it,” he said. “But I got started again and I just went … I had the legs, the people gave me extra (energy).”

The 33-year-old Roglič won the stage ahead of Thomas. Joao Almeida was third, 42 seconds slower.

For Thomas, his bad luck at the Giro continued. In 2017, he was involved in a crash caused by a police motorbike, and three years later he fractured his hip after a drinks bottle became lodged under his wheel – being forced to abandon both times.

Thomas turned 37 on Thursday. The Ineos Grenadiers cyclist had seemed poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history — beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

“I could feel my legs going about a kilometer and a half from the top. I just didn’t feel I had that real grunt,” Thomas said. “I guess it’s nice to lose by that much rather than a second or two, because that would be worse I think.

“At least he smashed me and to be honest Primoz deserves that. He had a mechanical as well, still put 40 seconds into me so chapeau to him. If you’d told me this back in (February), March, I would have bit your hand off but now I’m devastated.”

Thomas and Roglič exchanged fist bumps as they waited their turn to ride down the ramp at the start of the 11.6-mile time trial.

The Giro will finish in Rome on Sunday, with 10 laps of a seven-mile circuit through the streets of the capital, taking in many of its historic sites.

“One more day to go, one more focus, because I think the lap is quite hard, technical. So it’s not over til it’s finished,” Roglič said. “But looks good, voila.”

The route will pass by places such as the Altare della Patria, the Capitoline Hill, the Circus Maximus and finish at the Imperial Forums, in the shadow of the Colosseum.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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