China divers retire after dominating Tokyo Olympics

Shi Tingmao, Han Wang
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After its most dominating Olympics ever in diving, China’s national team is seeing major changes.

China won seven of the eight diving golds in Tokyo with a silver in the other. It finished one-two in all four individual events.

Now, half of that 10-diver dream team has moved on, according to Chinese media. Most notably Shi Tingmao and Xie Siyi, who swept the women’s and men’s individual and synchronized springboard gold medals, reportedly left the competitive side of the sport.

As have Wang Han, who took springboard silver behind Shi and then joined her for synchro gold, and male platform stars Chen Aisen, the 2016 Olympic champion, and Yang Jian, who took silver in Tokyo behind the still active Cao Yuan.

Shi, 30, is the biggest name and maybe the most expected after reportedly saying in Tokyo that it was likely her final Olympics. She is now reportedly coaching.

After legends Chen Ruolin and Wu Minxia retired after Rio, Shi became the veteran leader of the women’s team. She went four-for-four in her Olympic career, winning individual and synchro springboard gold in 2016 and 2021. She also won eight world titles between 2011 and 2019 between individual and synchro springboard.

Xie was told in 2014 that he would never dive again after breaking his right ankle. He later reaggravated the injury, and it ultimately ruled him out of Rio Olympic contention. After that, he won both world titles on springboard in the last Olympic cycle, in addition to his gold in Tokyo.

The national diving team now consists of 18 athletes, 15 of whom were born after 2000, according to Xinhua News Agency. The oldest is the 27-year-old Cao, who won gold medals in three different events at the last three Olympics.

Quan Hongchan, who won Tokyo women’s platform gold at age 14, is also still with the program, according to Xinhua.

The world championships are this summer in Budapest.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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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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