Gabriel Medina, surfing world champion, sets return from mental break

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Brazilian Gabriel Medina, a three-time and reigning world surfing champion, will reportedly return from a mental health break for the second half of the World Surf League season next month.

“Last year, there were heats where I was crying going to the water,” Medina said in a video interview with Brazil’s Globo, according to an Olympics.com translation. “This time [away] was good for me. It’s not a secret. It’s even interesting to talk about mental health. I had depression. I started treating myself with a psychologist. I never imagined being in this situation. It’s scary. Things stop making sense for you.”

Medina, 28, announced in January that he withdrew from the start of the WSL season indefinitely, saying he was “not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world’s best” with a need to focus on his well-being.

Days after Medina’s announcement, Brazilian media reported that he and his wife ended their marriage.

“I’m better, happy to be finding myself again,” Medina told Globo in the recent interview, according to the Olympics.com translation. “I learned a lot during this time.”

Medina, who has 10 million Instagram followers and was the first surfer to land a back flip in a contest, entered the Tokyo Games ranked No. 1 in the world and finished fourth.

He dropped his semifinal to Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi by .24 of a point and the bronze-medal heat to Australian Owen Wright by two tenths of a point. They were the two closest heats of any men’s or women’s elimination round matchup at surfing’s Olympic debut.

Fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira took gold.

Medina’s first event of this season is expected to be in Indonesia in five weeks.

Surfing remains on the Olympic program for the 2024 Paris Games, with competition set to be in Tahiti. Qualifying procedures have not been published yet. For the Tokyo Games, the majority of surfers qualified via WSL season standings the year before the Olympics.

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Mikaela Shiffrin barely denied in first bid to tie Alpine skiing World Cup wins record

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Mikaela Shiffrin was denied in her first bid to tie the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record by six hundredths of a second.

Shiffrin, trying to tie Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 World Cup victories, led by 67 hundredths over German Lena Duerr after the first of two slalom runs in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

The last racer to go in the second run, Shiffrin’s lead over Duerr dwindled as she neared the finish line. It was down to 15 hundredths at the last intermediate split with 10 seconds left of the course.

Shiffrin crossed the finish line, saw that she ended up six hundredths behind, opened her mouth, rocked her head and put her hand to her helmet. It was the closest slalom defeat of her career, which has included a record 52 World Cup slalom victories.

“I felt like the first run I skied really well, and I actually skied quite well in the second as well,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Six tenths is not actually so much time. … Lena has been strong all season, and she deserves to win.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Duerr, 31, earned her second World Cup win, 10 years to the day after her first. Shiffrin won 82 World Cup races in that span.

“It took me a while,” Duerr said. “Crazy that today’s the day.”

Shiffrin’s next bid to tie Stenmark, the Swedish legend of the 1970s and ’80s, won’t be until March.

Next up are the world championships in France, starting Feb. 6, which are separate from the World Cup.

Shiffrin’s next planned World Cup races are either speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway, the first weekend of March or a giant slalom and slalom in Stenmark’s home nation at Åre, Sweden, from March 10-11 ahead of her 28th birthday on March 13.

“I don’t have any expectations going into it,” said Shiffrin, whose first World Cup win came in Åre in 2012. “It’s just like every race of the season, just trying to take it all in and enjoy my skiing, enjoy when the other athletes are skiing better, too, because there’s always some to learn from that.”

Shiffrin began last week tied with Lindsey Vonn for second place on the career wins list at 82. She then rattled off victories on Wednesday and Thursday in giant slaloms in Kronplatz, Italy, and Saturday in the first slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

She has 11 wins in 23 starts this season, her best campaign since her record 17-win 2018-19 season.

She did break one record on Sunday — clinching her seventh World Cup slalom season title with two races left in the discipline.

She broke her tie with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s, for most women’s World Cup slalom season titles. Stenmark won eight and is tied with Vonn (downhill) for the most season titles in any discipline.

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Germany denied gold-medal sweep of world luge championships races

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Austrian Jonas Müller denied Germany’s bid to sweep all eight singles and doubles races at the world luge championships.

Müller, a 25-year-old who was not on Austria’s Olympic team, won the men’s event by .104 of a second over German Max Langenhan at worlds in Oberhof, Germany, combining times from two runs. Another Austrian, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, earned bronze.

Germany won the first seven of eight singles and doubles races on Friday and Saturday, including sprint events that aren’t on the Olympic program. Its last gold-medal sweep at worlds was in 2013, when there were four events on the program. Germany also swept the Olympic golds in 2014 and 2022.

Müller, the 2020 World silver medalist who dropped out of Austria’s top three men last season, said his sled broke in a crash at a World Cup two weeks ago in Sigulda, Latvia.

“I flew home the next day and unpacked the old sled again,” he said, according to the International Luge Federation. “As you can see, the old sled doesn’t seem so bad.”

While Germany has dominated women’s and doubles events, this marked the third consecutive worlds with a non-German men’s winner, its longest drought since the mid-1990s.

Johannes Ludwig retired after winning last year’s Olympics. Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion and record six-time world champion, placed fourth on Sunday.

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