Mikaela Shiffrin closes in on title, speed skaters bid farewell; winter sports schedule

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin can move closer to her fourth World Cup overall title, among the winter sports live on Peacock this weekend.

Shiffrin and the women’s Alpine skiing World Cup visit Are, Sweden, for a giant slalom and slalom, the last stop before the four-race World Cup Finals.

The focus will be on Shiffrin and Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova, the world’s top two skiers this season. Last weekend, Shiffrin surged ahead in the race for the overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

She finished second and fourth in a GS and super-G, while Vlhova had a DNF and an 18th, dropping from a tie to 117 points behind with six races left. A race winner receives 100 points, with 80 points to second place and 60 for third place on a descending scale through 30th place.

Shiffrin is guaranteed to stay ahead of Vlhova going into the World Cup Finals if she places fifth or better in each race this weekend. She has been fifth or better in 10 of the 11 giant slaloms and slaloms that she has finished this season.

In the men’s World Cup, Swiss Marco Odermatt has a 189-point lead over Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde with seven races left. Kilde does not race slalom and rarely does giant slalom, so Odermatt should have his first overall title all but clinched after this week’s slalom and giant slaloms.

Elsewhere, the speed skating World Cup Finals will be a farewell for retiring Dutchwoman Ireen Wüst, who in Beijing earned her 12th and 13th medals and became the first person to win an individual medal at five Olympics.

Swede Nils van der Poel, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m at the Olympics, has said the Finals will be his last competition before elite retirement, though he could come back as he has done before.

Alpine Skiing World Cup — Flachau, Austria and Kranjska Gora, Slovenia (Men) and Are, Sweden (Women)

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Wednesday 11:45 a.m. Men’s Slalom Run 1 Peacock | STREAM LINK
2:45 p.m. Men’s Slalom Run 2 Peacock | STREAM LINK
Friday 9 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 Peacock | STREAM LINK
12 p.m. Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 Peacock | STREAM LINK
Saturday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 Peacock | STREAM LINK
4:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom Run 1 Peacock | STREAM LINK
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:45 a.m. Women’s Slalom Run 2 Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 Peacock | STREAM LINK
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 Peacock | STREAM LINK

Speed Skating World Cup — Heerenveen, Netherlands

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Saturday 7 a.m. Women’s 500m Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:13 a.m. Men’s 500m Peacock | STREAM LINK
8:10 a.m. Women’s 1500m Peacock | STREAM LINK
8:55 a.m. Men’s 1000m Peacock | STREAM LINK
9:35 a.m. Men’s 5000m Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 8:10 a.m. Women’s 500m Peacock | STREAM LINK
8:49 a.m. Men’s 500m Peacock | STREAM LINK
9:28 a.m. Women’s 3000m Peacock | STREAM LINK
10:19 a.m. Men’s 1500m Peacock | STREAM LINK
11:03 a.m. Women’s 1000m Peacock | STREAM LINK
11:49 a.m. Men’s Mass Start Peacock | STREAM LINK
12:10 p.m. Women’s Mass Start Peacock | STREAM LINK

Biathlon World Cup — Otepää, Estonia

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Thursday 8:30 a.m. Men’s Sprint Peacock | STREAM LINK
Friday 8:30 a.m. Women’s Sprint Peacock | STREAM LINK
Saturday 6 a.m. Men’s Mass Start Peacock | STREAM LINK
8:15 a.m. Women’s Mass Start Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 6:30 a.m. Mixed Relay Peacock | STREAM LINK
9:15 a.m. Single Mixed Relay Peacock | STREAM LINK

Cross-Country Skiing World Cup — Falun, Sweden

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Friday 6:15 a.m. Sprints Peacock | STREAM LINK
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Men’s 15km Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:15 a.m. Women’s 10km Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Mixed Relay Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Mixed Team Sprint Peacock | STREAM LINK

Ski Jumping World Cup — Oberhof, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Saturday 7:30 a.m. Women Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 8:45 a.m. Women Peacock | STREAM LINK

Nordic Combined World Cup — Schonach, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Saturday 4 a.m. Women Ski Jump Peacock | STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men Ski Jump Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Women 5km Peacock | STREAM LINK
8:15 a.m. Men 10km Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 4 a.m. Women Ski Jump Peacock | STREAM LINK
5:30 a.m. Men Ski Jump Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Women 5km Peacock | STREAM LINK
8:35 a.m. Men 10km Peacock | STREAM LINK

Freestyle Skiing World Cup — Tignes, France (Slopestyle) and Reiteralm, Austria (Ski Cross)

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Saturday 6:30 a.m. Slopestyle Peacock | STREAM LINK
9 a.m. Ski Cross Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Ski Cross Peacock | STREAM LINK

Snowboarding World Cup — Reiteralm, Austria (Snowboard Cross) and Piancavallo, Italy (Alpine)

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Saturday 5 a.m. Snowboard Cross Peacock | STREAM LINK
8 a.m. Parallel Slalom Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 7 a.m. Team Parallel Slalom Peacock | STREAM LINK

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach

GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas

If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with more established players — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team. (Thomas was not in the 36-player national team pool at the time of her injury.)

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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