Mikaela Shiffrin, Petra Vlhova set for World Cup Finals duel for overall title

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Neither Mikaela Shiffrin nor Petra Vlhova made a World Cup slalom podium for the first time in six years, while Vlhova again gained on Shiffrin in the overall standings on Saturday to set up a head-to-head title tilt at next week’s World Cup Finals.

World champion Katharina Liensberger, fifth after the opening run, won by .16 of a second combining times over two runs in Are, Sweden, for the Austrian’s first victory this season.

Norwegian Mina Fuerst Holtmann, 10th after the first run, and Swiss Michelle Gisin, sixth after the first run, rounded out the surprise podium.

ALPINE WORLD CUP: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Vlhova, second after the first run, had a chance to nearly erase Shiffrin’s 77-point lead in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

But Vlhova finished fourth, missing a slalom podium for the first time this season. Shiffrin dropped from fourth after the first run to place ninth, her worst result in a slalom that she finished since November 2014.

Vlhova still gained another 21 points on Shiffrin in the overall standings, a day after chopping 40 points off Shiffrin’s lead. Shiffrin entered the week with a 117-point lead. Now it’s down to 56 points going into the season-ending World Cup Finals next week in France.

The World Cup Finals include a race in each of the four disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.

A race winner receives 100 points, with 80 points to second place and 60 for third place on a descending scale through 30th place (through 15th at finals). So the overall title could come down to the last race of the 37-race season, a giant slalom on March 13.

Last year, Vlhova became the first Slovakian to win the overall.

Shiffrin won three overalls in a row from 2017-19 and is looking to tie Lindsey Vonn for second place in women’s history at four, trailing only Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who won six in the 1970s.

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

Lucas Braathen

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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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan

Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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