Mikaela Shiffrin, after another podium, looks for refresh amid busy stretch

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Mikaela Shiffrin was tired. She skied, admittedly, scrappy at times. Her back was a little bothersome.

The results: first- and second-place finishes in a pair of giant slaloms in Courchevel, France, the last two days.

“It was just a tough day,” Shiffrin said after finishing runner-up Wednesday to Sara Hector, .35 of a second behind the Swede who got her first World Cup win in seven years. “That’s amazing to have second place.

“My body is saying, OK, it’s time to take any sort of rest.”

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin gets that in the form of a Christmas break this weekend.

The women’s World Cup moves to Lienz, Austria, for a giant slalom and slalom next Tuesday and Wednesday (live on Peacock). Shiffrin won both races the last time the circuit stopped there in 2019.

In Courchevel, she managed the challenges in the first two of eight consecutive technical races (GS and slalom) through Jan. 11 that will likely determine the favorites in those events for the Beijing Olympics in February.

Shiffrin noted that she was tired after her first run in Tuesday’s race, which she still won by a substantial .86 of a second. Then on Wednesday, she felt “something like spasms” in her back when hitting bumps in rough snow in her first run, where she was third fastest in the field.

Dry needling before the second run helped, and she moved up one spot and stood on a fifth consecutive GS podium dating to last season.

“These next couple weeks it’s also a big push, it’s also tough,” she said on ORF. “But I think, some point, we get into the groove, and if I can get just one day of rest [before Lienz], it should be OK.”

The last two days of racing lacked three of the world’s top GS skiers — world champion Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland, New Zealand’s Alice Robinson and world slalom champion Katharina Liensberger of Austria — who sat out after positive coronavirus tests.

Even so, Shiffrin positioned herself well as she builds up to, hopefully, ski all five individual events at the Olympics for the first time. She has raced close to a full World Cup schedule, despite that back injury that curtailed training two months ago.

Shiffrin has finished no lower than second in six GS and slalom races this season. She also ranks fourth in the world in super-G with two podiums in four starts. And her best event at the Olympics may be the combined, which is not raced on the World Cup.

No skier who has raced all five events at an Olympics has ever come away with four medals.

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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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