Mikaela Shiffrin returns to podium in Sestriere

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin returned to the Alpine skiing World Cup podium with a runner-up to Swiss Wendy Holdener in a slalom in Sestriere, Italy, on Sunday.

Holdener, who two weeks ago earned her first World Cup slalom victory (a tie with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson) after 30 second- or third-place finishes, won her first World Cup slalom outright in the Italian Alps.

“I heard in the start that Mikaela’s in the lead, so I knew I had to give all I have,” said Holdener, who became the first Swiss woman to win back-to-back World Cup slaloms since Vreni Schneider in 1994. “Most of the records are Mikaela’s, so it’s cool I have small victories.”

She prevailed by 47 hundredths of a second over Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Shiffrin, who was third after the first run, leapfrogged first-run leader Petra Vlhova, who dropped to third.

American Paula Moltzan finished fifth, matching her best World Cup slalom finish. The last U.S. woman other than Shiffrin to place higher in a World Cup slalom was Resi Stiegler, who was a runner-up in 2012.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener cut Shiffrin’s standings lead for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, to 19 points through nine of 39 scheduled races. She also tied Shiffrin in the season slalom standings through four of 11 scheduled races.

Shiffrin rebounded for her 100th World Cup podium between traditional slaloms and giant slaloms after placing 13th, fifth and sixth in her previous three races between a stop in Killington, Vermont, two weeks ago and a GS in Sestriere on Saturday. She hasn’t missed the podium in four consecutive World Cup technical races in eight years.

“I am quite exhausted, but I think I had some really good turns and some things to fix for the next slalom,” Shiffrin said. “Anyway, it’s a step from Killington, a step in the right direction. It was two really difficult days.”

Shiffrin plans to travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland, ahead of speed races next weekend but may reevaluate her plans during downhill training runs. After that is a critical stretch for Shiffrin’s season title hopes: eight consecutive slaloms or giant slaloms from Dec. 27 through Jan. 10, all at venues where she has multiple victories.

Shiffrin, who has 76 World Cup wins, can move closer to the female record of 82 held by Lindsey Vonn and the overall record of 86 held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

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

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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