Mikaela Shiffrin can finish a season of challenges as the world’s best Alpine skier

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin reached the last stop of a challenging season — physically, emotionally and not just on the Olympic stage — with a chance to finish it by lifting a 20-pound crystal globe trophy that goes to the world’s best overall ski racer.

“The energy is for sure low now,” Shiffrin said in Are, Sweden, last weekend, while noting her skiing was “feeling pretty on point” after third- and ninth-place World Cup finishes. “It’s pretty typical once the season goes on. Towards the end you start to feel that a little bit.”

Shiffrin has a not-so-comfortable-but-significant 56-point lead over Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the most prestigious annual prize in Alpine skiing.

There are four races left in the 37-race season that began in October. One each in downhill, super-G, slalom and giant slalom. They are Wednesday through Sunday at the World Cup Finals in Courchevel and Meribel in France. A broadcast schedule is here.

The World Cup points system works like this: 100 points to a race winner, 80 points to second place, 60 points to third, 50 points to fourth and on down a descending scale through the 15th skier at finals. At non-finals races, it goes through the 30th finisher.

The overall title goes to the skier who accumulates the most points across all races.

So the head-to-head between Shiffrin, looking to tie Lindsey Vonn with a fourth overall title, and Vlhova, who last year became the first Slovakian to lift the big globe, could come down to the 37th and last race this season, the giant slalom on Sunday.

It’s a new experience for Shiffrin. She clinched her three previous overall titles before those seasons’ finals. The last was in 2019, when she won 17 times in arguably the greatest season in history. Her life challenges since that high have been well-documented.

It’s tempting to connect the World Cup to the most recent adversity at the Olympics, to wonder if that 20-pound trophy could at all mitigate leaving China without a medal.

“I think you can’t take the sting out of that experience in China,” Mike Day, one of Shiffrin’s coaches, said from France on Monday. “[The overall title] would have meaning, but, ultimately, I think the experience in China’s something that will be long lasting, and this is something separate from that.”

Shiffrin began the season peppered with questions about potentially racing all five individual events at the Olympics. One wondered what was possible after she won four medals in four events at the February 2021 World Championships on a lack of training in speed events.

Then, on Oct. 23, she won the season-opening race outright for the first time in her career — World Cup victory No. 70. Two days later came the first significant obstacle of the campaign, a severe, spasm-like back injury that curtailed a planned two-week training block in her native Colorado.

The previous season, separate acute back tightness affected her for two months and led her to say, at age 25, it was the first injury that posed some threat to her ski racing career.

As she did in 2020-21, Shiffrin recovered and returned to winning races. She actually had the most consistent start to a season of her career, finishing first or second in all six slaloms or giant slaloms heading into Christmas, plus a pair of third-place finishes in super-Gs.

Then she announced Dec. 27 that she tested positive for the coronavirus with mild symptoms. Shiffrin went more than a week without skiing, missing a GS and slalom that could prove significant in the overall race by this week’s end.

What little exercise she could do while quarantined in an Austrian hotel room was limited to things like bed frame pull-ups.

Again, Shiffrin climbed back on the top podium step, winning the last World Cup slalom before the Olympics.

At the Olympics, her best finish in five individual races was ninth. Since, she placed second, fourth, third and ninth between two World Cup stops, breaking her tie with Vlhova in the overall standings. Though Vlhova gained 61 points back over the most recent two races.

Day said Shiffrin’s team had very little focus on the overall title chase this season. His first time encountering it after the Olympics wasn’t in conversation with Shiffrin, but reading about it in the press.

Shiffrin has long emphasized the day-to-day training, the fight and not the results. Day echoed that. He called this the most difficult full season her career, not counting the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign, when she took a break after her father’s death that Feb. 2.

“It’s not necessarily the 17-win seasons that ultimately define you,” Day said, noting Shiffrin’s record-breaking 2018-19, the last time she was crowned the world’s best skier. “It’s the ones that you really have to claw and fight.”

Yet he did not deny that what happens this week will have an impact on how team Shiffrin looks back on an unforgettable 2021-22.

“I think you probably need to ask me about that six days from now,” he said.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships TV, live stream schedule

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Every race of the world Alpine skiing championships airs live on Peacock from Feb. 6-19.

France hosts the biennial worlds in Meribel and Courchevel — six women’s races, six men’s races and one mixed-gender team event.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the headliner, in the midst of her most successful season in four years with a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts. Shiffrin is up to 85 career World Cup victories, one shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record accumulated over the 1970s and ’80s.

World championships races do not count in the World Cup tally.

Shiffrin is expected to race at least four times at worlds, starting with Monday’s combined. She earned a medal in 11 of her 13 career world championships races, including each of the last 10 dating to 2015.

Shiffrin won at least one race at each of the last five world championships (nobody has gold from six different worlds). Her six total golds and 11 total medals are American records. At this edition, she can become the most decorated skier in modern world championships history from any nation.

She enters one medal shy of the record for most individual world championships medals since World War II (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and four medals shy of the all-time record. (Worlds were held annually in the 1930s, albeit with fewer races.)

She is also one gold medal shy of the post-World War II individual record shared by Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson.

The other favorites at these worlds include Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top female downhiller this season, and the two leading men: Swiss Marco Odermatt (No. 1 in super-G and giant slalom) and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (No. 1 in downhill).

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships Broadcast Schedule

Date Event Time (ET) Platform
Mon., Feb. 6 Women’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Tues., Feb. 7 Men’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 8 Women’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 9 Men’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 11 Women’s Downhill 5 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Men’s Downhill 5 a.m Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Tue., Feb. 14 Team Parallel 6:15 a.m. Peacock
Men’s/Women’s Parallel Qualifying 11 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 15 Men’s/Women’s Parallel 6 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 16 Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Fri., Feb. 17 Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 18 Women’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 19 Men’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock

*Delayed broadcast
*All NBC coverage streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for TV subscribers.

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