Konnor McClain wins Winter Cup as U.S. gymnasts ramp up for new Olympic cycle

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Konnor McClain opened the first full year of an abbreviated, three-year Olympic cycle by winning the Winter Cup, an early season meet for U.S. gymnasts preparing for nationals and worlds later this year.

McClain, a 17-year-old who trains in the Dallas area, prevailed with an all-around score of 54.3 points, highlighted by a 14.6 on balance beam, in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday.

Nobody from the six-woman Tokyo Olympic team competed, but many 2024 Olympic hopefuls were in the field.

Skye Blakely, who was born three days after McClain and like McClain trains at WOGA Gymnastics (but at a different facility), took second, six tenths behind. eMjae Frazier was third.

Full results are here.

McClain and Blakely were too young for the Olympics in 2020. When the Games were postponed to 2021, they became age eligible.

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior all-around silver medalist, did not compete at senior nationals or the Olympic Trials last year. Her mom cited physical and mental health, focusing on the future beyond the Tokyo Games, which was their initial plan before the Olympic postponement.

Blakely, fourth at the 2019 junior nationals, was seventh at the 2021 senior nationals, then suffered an elbow injury at trials and later underwent surgery.

McClain and Frazier competed at the world championships last October and did not make any individual finals. McClain was eighth in balance beam qualifying but did not make the eight-woman final because two Americans had higher scores on the event.

On Friday night, University of Oklahoma senior Vitaliy Guimaraes won the men’s all-around. Yul Moldauer, the lone Olympian in the men’s or women’s field, was fourth.

Sam Mikulak, a three-time Olympian, retired after the Tokyo Games. Brody Malone, the reigning U.S. all-around champion, is competing at a World Cup in Germany this weekend.

Gymnasts are preparing for the national championships in August in Tampa, after which the teams will be named for the world championships in Liverpool, Great Britain, in October and November.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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