Mikaela Shiffrin misses podium, bumped from No. 1 in giant slalom rankings

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Mikaela Shiffrin had her worst World Cup giant slalom result in two years and was overtaken for No. 1 in the World Cup standings in the discipline in the penultimate GS race before the Olympics.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic GS champion, finished seventh in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday. Swedish veteran Sara Hector earned her second win in the last three GS races after going seven years between victories.

Hector, 29, pushed Shiffrin to second in the World Cup GS standings, the best indicator for Olympic medal prospects. The women race a slalom on Sunday, live on Olympic Channel and Peacock.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin was 14th after the first of two runs with no major mistakes, then seventh-fastest in the second run. She was racing on two days of GS training since revealing a positive coronavirus test on Dec. 27, NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said.

“Four runs on my GS skis yesterday was not enough to hope or even wish that I could compete with the top women today, who showed very strong and very brave skiing,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “Still, I am disappointed to feel today that I was so far away from GS skiing that was just right there not too long ago. I’ll work to get that feeling back but for now, the job is to reset and recover the best I can for tomorrow’s slalom.”

The finish snapped Shiffrin’s streak of seven consecutive podium finishes between GS and slalom to start the season.

Paula Moltzan had a heavy crash in the second run after ranking 22nd in the first run. Moltzan and Nina O’Brien, who failed to qualify for the second run, still all but clinched their first Olympic berths as the second- and third-highest-ranked U.S. women in GS after Shiffrin this season.

As did River Radamus, the top U.S. men’s GS skier, after the last men’s World Cup men’s GS before the Olympics took place Saturday. Moltzan, O’Brien and Radamus’ places should become mathematically secure next week.

Moltzan, a 27-year-old who earned her first World Cup podium last season, is set to become the oldest U.S. female Alpine skier to compete in her first Winter Olympics in more than 70 years.

O’Brien, 24, has a best World Cup finish of ninth. Last season, she was in second place after the first GS run at the world championships. She led as the penultimate skier in the second run before a late mistake dropped her to 10th.

Radamus, 23, was a decorated junior racer with three golds from the 2016 Youth Olympics and two golds from the 2019 World Junior Championships. His best World Cup finish is sixth.

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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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