Mikaela Shiffrin wins last slalom before Olympics, breaks record

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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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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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