Mikaela Shiffrin wins last slalom before Olympics, breaks record


Mikaela Shiffrin won the last World Cup slalom before the Olympics, breaking the record for most World Cup victories in a single discipline and bursting into tears.

Shiffrin earned her 47th slalom victory, one more then Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark‘s giant slalom total from the 1970s and ’80s. She rallied from fifth place after the first run to prevail by .15 over Petra Vlhova, the world’s top-ranked slalom skier and first-run leader.

“Any time you’re able to be a little bit faster than Petra, that’s an incredible job,” Shiffrin said on ORF as Vlhova stood a few feet from her. “She is so strong. She’s making no mistakes. She’s skiing slalom the way it’s meant to be skied. It’s impressive. It’s really special to watch that.

“It’s a special season she’s had so far. It’s not stopping tonight, that’s for sure.”

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Shiffrin, waiting at the bottom for Vlhova to finish, was surprised the Slovakian didn’t beat her, then leaned over padding and appeared to cry.

She attributed the emotion at least partly to the significance of winning a night slalom in Schladming, Austria, a storied venue that’s mostly used for men’s races.

“I’m just crying a lot lately,” said Shiffrin, who has 73 World Cup wins across all events, third all time and 13 shy of Stenmark’s record. “It feels like it didn’t happen.”

Vlhova, Shiffrin’s primary rival for the last several years, has turned it on this season, winning five of the seven slaloms on the World Cup. Shiffrin also won in Killington, Vermont, on Nov. 28, after the first-run leader Vlhova made a mistake in her second run and ended up second.

Shiffrin entered the second run Tuesday — again, her last competition slalom run before the Olympics — relatively struggling in her trademark event. In the previous slalom on Sunday, she straddled a gate and failed to finish for the first time in four years.

Then she was fifth after the first run in Schladming, potentially staring at missing the podium in back-to-back World Cup slaloms for the first time in seven years.

“Aside from Killington, for obvious reasons, it’s going to be my most memorable race, maybe of my career,” she said. Killington is special because it is the lone World Cup stop in the U.S.

Shiffrin has said she hopes to race all five individual events at the Olympics for the first time. She could enter the Games favored in the giant slalom (currently ranked No. 2 in the world with one GS left before Beijing) and the combined, which is not on the World Cup this season. Shiffrin won the combined at last season’s world championships.

She is also a medal threat in the super-G, with a world championships bronze last season and two third-place finishes on the World Cup this season on a lack of training on super-G skis.

Shiffrin was set back by a back injury in October and November and a COVID infection in late December, missing two races and significant training time.

The women’s World Cup moves to Zauchensee, Austria, for a downhill and super-G this weekend. Shiffrin has not announced whether she will compete.

Also Tuesday, Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien clinched Olympic spots as the U.S.’ second- and third-ranked women in both giant slalom and slalom.

Moltzan, a 27-year old who made 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. She has skied with a pole taped to her glove since fracturing her left wrist last month.

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.

If the U.S. has enough quota spots, it can name one more woman to compete in GS and/or slalom in Beijing. Or it could use a skier who qualifies in one of the speed events.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualifies for 2022 Winter Olympics

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Oscar Pistorius denied parole, hasn’t served enough time

Oscar Pistorius
File photo

Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius was denied parole Friday after it was decided that he had not served the “minimum detention period” required to be released from prison following his murder conviction for the 2013 killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The parole board ruled Pistorius would be able to apply again in August 2024, South Africa’s Department of Corrections said in a statement. The board cited a new clarification on Pistorius’ sentence that was issued by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal three days ago, according to the statement.

The result was a surprise but there has been legal wrangling over when Pistorius should be eligible for parole because of the series of appeals in his case. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter, in 2014 but the case went through a number of appeals before Pistorius was finally sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017.

Serious offenders must serve at least half their sentence to be eligible for parole in South Africa.

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Ukraine officials say athletes should not compete in Olympic qualifiers with Russians

Ukraine Russia Fencing

The Ukraine government decided that its athletes should not compete in 2024 Olympic qualifying events if Russians are present, according to several media reports in Ukraine.

“At a meeting of the government, a protocol decision was made on the proposal of colleague (sports minister Vadym) Guttsait that we take part in qualifying competitions only where there are no Russians,” government minister Oleh Nemchinov said Thursday, according to a Reuters translation of a Ukraine public broadcaster report. “Accordingly, participation outside these criteria may be grounds for depriving federations of their national status.”

A decision has not been published on the Ukraine government website.

Guttsait is also the president of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee. A message was sent to the committee late Thursday seeking comment.

On Tuesday, the IOC updated its recommendations for the possible participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competition. Previously, the IOC recommended no Russians or Belarusians be allowed to compete.

Tuesday’s update called for strict measures should international sports federations decide to readmit Russians and Belarusians who do not actively support the war as neutral athletes in individual events.

“I want to tell our fellow athletes who are worried that due to the IOC measures and the admission of Russians or Belarusians to competitions, and accordingly Ukrainians will not be able to participate, that their careers will be broken,” Nemchinov said, according to the Reuters translation of the public broadcaster report. “But your life and that of your children will remain.”

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) decided earlier in March that it planned to readmit Russians and Belarusians starting in the second half of April, which is also when the 2024 Olympic qualifying period begins in that sport.

Most other international federations for Olympic sports are so far still barring Russians and Belarusians. Some have said they are considering the IOC’s updated recommendations as they monitor their positions.

After Nemchinov’s reported comments, the Ukraine fencing federation press secretary said late Thursday that its fencers will not compete against Russians.

“Ukrainian fencers will not only refuse to compete against Russian and Belarusian athletes but will not participate in events of any level where Russian or Belarusian athletes will be competing,” the press secretary said in an email.

Ukraine won at least one fencing medal at each of the last five Olympics.

“We are all professionals, and if I will fence, which can be or cannot, I think I will be professional,” Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan, a four-time Olympic medalist and a four-time individual world champion, said Wednesday regarding a possible boycott. “As a Ukrainian citizen, it’s tough to even imagine how to stand next to [Russians], to know that they’re supporting or they’re in silence and we haven’t heard any word from them or we know that they represent army that’s shelling Ukraine every day.”

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