Mikaela Shiffrin nears World Cup wins record in year of nail-biters, tears, pinch-me moments

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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s first heartwarming experience of the season occurred far from TV cameras on an Austrian slope in November. It wasn’t the last.

After the first giant slalom was canceled due to weather, Shiffrin trained slalom in the Tyrolean village of Pitztal. One day, Marlies Schild, one of her ski racing idols, came out with her two sons. The next day, Schild toted her 3-year-old daughter, Magdalena, and slipped the course (a kind of preparation) for Shiffrin.

Shiffrin laughed hysterically at the contrasting sight of Schild, who retired in 2014, making beautiful turns while Magdalena’s skis were bent backwards. Schild’s husband, fellow Austrian star Alpiner Benni Raich, was at the bottom with their two boys. Shiffrin had tears in her eyes, her mom said.

Shiffrin called it “a fan-girl moment” in the first episode of her new YouTube series.

“[Shiffrin] said, ‘I just was thinking somebody pinch me,'” Shiffrin’s mom and coach, Eileen, remembered in a phone interview Tuesday. “You can’t make this stuff up. It’s just so cool.”

Shiffrin had a dream start to her 12th World Cup season once the racing began. For the first time in her career, she won the first two events, slaloms north of the Arctic Circle in Levi, Finland. She then won the four most recent races across three different disciplines, also a career first.

She is now two wins shy of Lindsey Vonn‘s female record 82 career World Cup victories, and four more from Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s overall record 86. She can pass Vonn this week with slaloms in Zagreb, Croatia, on Wednesday and Thursday and giant slaloms in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday and Sunday.

ALPINE SKIING: Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin neither dwells on her number of victories nor considers herself a record chaser.

“Mikaela is kind of introverted, and they say that introverts tend to be very, very hard to read,” Eileen said. “If she is thinking about it much, I don’t see it.”

Eileen was there in December 2012 for Shiffrin’s first World Cup win in Åre, Sweden. Stunned, the 17-year-old reportedly said, “I don’t really like the success. … I like to sleep at night, and I like to hang around the hotel room with my mom. I’m afraid there might be a little hype with this. But I’ll take it. This is what I love to do.”

Asked which wins have stood out since, Eileen noted the two Olympic gold medals (slalom in 2014, giant slalom in 2018) and Shiffrin’s most dominant performance ever by the numbers, her 3.07-second victory in a slalom in Aspen, Colorado, in 2015.

She also has a special place for last week’s effort in Semmering, Austria. Shiffrin won on back-to-back-to-back days, exactly six years after she did the same thing at the same place.

This year’s races were much closer. All of Shiffrin’s six wins this season have come by a margin of fewer than three tenths of a second.

“Each race [last week in Semmering], the second run she came through,” Eileen said. “It’s really a testament to where she is at the moment, mentally.”

In an interview last week, Shiffrin said her perspective gained from last February’s Olympics — encompassed by that YouTube series title, “Moving Right Along” — may have played a role in her success so far this season.

Shiffrin spoke to a sports psychologist this summer.

“That has helped her learn to be more independent and figure out who she is,” Eileen said. “If any of us, say, give her some feedback, and she doesn’t agree with it, she’ll either just say right there, ‘Well, I don’t agree with that,’ or she takes it and processes it and spits it back out if she doesn’t like it. And I think that’s helping her.”

Eileen has absorbed since those races, too.

“There are times and places for feedback,” she said. “I’m trying to learn to read Mikaela better, but more importantly, err on the side of saying things in a way that can’t possibly put added pressure on her or can’t be construed as having expectations, because she’s a people pleaser.”

The forecast for Zagreb on Wednesday and Thursday is warmer than normal. That means the wear-and-tear on the slope may have greater impact on the results. Shiffrin knows how fine the differences can be. Her six wins this season came by a combined margin of 1.08 seconds (or 18 hundredths per race).

A little over a month ago, Shiffrin missed the podium at her favorite World Cup stop in Killington, Vermont, for the first time. She went four consecutive tech races without a win. Then she rattled off four in a row, capped by another pinch-me moment: her first World Cup one-two with another American, Paula Moltzan.

Maybe the streak continues this week. No matter what, “the fight,” how Shiffrin describes the battles she embraces not just with other ski racers but also the terrains of courses, is not even half over for a season that runs into late March.

“Momentum changes,” Eileen said. “We of all people know that just when you think things are going great, something catastrophic can happen in the next second. So we take our good times. Roll with the good times as much as we can. Right now, it’s really nice to see her smiling and just happy and feeling good about life. I just think that’s where she’s at.”

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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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