Mikaela Shiffrin on brink of World Cup overall title after first downhill win in two years

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Mikaela Shiffrin moved closer to her fourth World Cup overall title by notching her first downhill victory in two years, prevailing at the World Cup Finals in Courchevel, France, on Wednesday.

Shiffrin, in her 15th career World Cup downhill start, earned her third career downhill win and 74th World Cup victory across all disciplines. She trailed at all but the last intermediate split, then crossed the finish line one tenth ahead of Austrian Christine Scheyer and Swiss Joana Haehlen.

WORLD CUP FINALS: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin covered her mouth in an act of speechlessness. Moments later, she embraced boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the Norwegian who won the men’s downhill season title two hours earlier.

“Are you kidding me? That was amazing,” Kilde told her. “How did you actually do that?”

Shiffrin said she benefited from talking downhill course strategy with Kilde earlier this week. Shiffrin, whose best finish in three previous downhills this season was 18th, said she considered not racing the event at Finals, where all four disciplines are contested in a five-days span.

Then she was fastest in Tuesday’s training run.

“I’m supposed to not be winning downhills,” she said. “I’m not a downhill skier right now. I mean, I have great pieces, but it takes a lot of thought, a lot of work, a lot of effort. And some of the things that, for many of the other women comes natural, is not coming natural for me.”

Shiffrin upped her lead in the standings for the overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, from 56 points to 156 points over Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova. Vlhova, the Olympic slalom gold medalist, was 16th on Wednesday in her worst discipline, scoring zero points.

A race winner receives 100 points, with 80 for second, 60 for third and 50 for fourth on a descending scale through the 15th skier. Vlhova must average making up more than 50 points per race on Shiffrin in the final three races to overtake her, starting with Thursday’s super-G.

The overall title goes to the best racer by combining results from races in all disciplines over the 37-race season that started in October. Shiffrin is trying to tie Lindsey Vonn for second place in women’s history with four titles, trailing only Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who won six in the 1970s.

Shiffrin ranks third in World Cup history with 74 wins, trailing Vonn (82) and Swede Ingemar Stenmark (86). She also joined Anja Pärson, Marc Girardelli and Bode Miller as skiers to win at least three times each in the primary disciplines of downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.

Wednesday marked Shiffrin’s first victory since the Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth among five races. Three times this season Shiffrin came back from significant adversity to top a World Cup podium, also including a back injury in October and November and a COVID quarantine over Christmas.

Earlier Wednesday, Swiss Marco Odermatt clinched his first overall title by finishing second in the downhill behind Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr.

Odermatt, 24, upped an already comfortable 329-point lead to an insurmountable 359 points over Kilde with three races left.

Kilde, by finishing fourth Wednesday, clinched his first downhill season title.

He came into the finals with a 23-point lead in the discipline standings over Swiss Olympic gold medalist Beat Feuz, who finished third, gaining 10 points on the Norwegian. Feuz would have passed Kilde with a second-place finish.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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