Mikaela Shiffrin one win from women’s World Cup record, ties longest win streak in 25 years

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin won her 81st World Cup race, moving one shy of Lindsey Vonn‘s female record while tying the longest win streak in 25 years with what she called likely the best skiing of her career.

Shiffrin prevailed on the first of back-to-back slalom days in Zagreb, Croatia, beating Slovakian Petra Vlhova by 76 hundredths of a second combining times from two runs.

“It was two nearly perfect runs,” Shiffrin said on Austrian broadcaster ORF. “If I could go up and do it again, I couldn’t do it better.

“I could actually say that I’m skiing better than I probably ever have.”

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On Thursday, Shiffrin can tie Vonn and become the first man or woman to win six consecutive World Cup races since German Katja Seizinger in November-December 1997.

Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, a legend of the 1970s and ’80s, has the overall career record of 86 World Cup wins.

Shiffrin also won five in a row in 2018. This run is arguably more impressive given Shiffrin has done it across three different disciplines — two wins apiece in giant slalom and slalom, plus a super-G.

“I’m doing my best not to count,” she laughed. “Right now, I feel like I’m just riding a wave. I’m going to ride it until it’s over because the only thing I can really guarantee is that, at some point, it ends.”

Wednesday was among the more impressive of Shiffrin’s record 51 career World Cup slalom wins.

She became the third woman in the last six years (more than 60 races) to top the first run of a top-level slalom starting from seventh place, the worst start position given to the top flight of skiers. Shiffrin’s lead after the first run — 23 hundredths of a second — was the largest for a woman starting seventh since December 2016.

What’s more, Zagreb is not known as a course that holds up well. Shiffrin had to ski after the world’s other top six women carved it up in the first run, then went last of 30 skiers in the second run. None of the contenders had more difficult terrain to navigate.

“I knew there was a huge chance I could maybe not finish,” said Shiffrin, who worked with Atomic in the offseason on bettering her skis for soft conditions and used it for the first time this season in Zagreb. “Sometimes I feel a little bit more nervous when I think about past victories, then it feels like I’m supposed to win, but that’s not a helpful feeling. .. I wasn’t feeling pressure today.”

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Isabeau Levito, Bradie Tennell, Amber Glenn named to U.S. team for World Championships


SAN JOSE, Calif. – With a calm command belying her age, Isabeau Levito has taken control of U.S. women’s skating at age 15.

Levito came here as the solid favorite to take her first national title, and she did it with a seemingly effortless grace, her balletic style producing solid winning performances in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate.

She was the last of 18 skaters in the free skate, following rivals who made mistakes big and small. Levito did not need perfection, but her skating approached it, even if the execution of some jumps could have been better.

Levito left no doubt of her superiority and burst into a wide smile even before the scores were announced. After a narrow win over Bradie Tennell (.02 points) in the short program, Levito (223.33) wound up 10.21 points ahead of the runner-up Tennell (213.12) in the final standings.

Amber Glenn was third at 207.44. She, Levito and Tennell will fill the three women’s places on the U.S. team for the March World Championships in Japan.

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Two of the three U.S. women’s skaters on the 2022 Olympic team have announced their retirements (Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell; Karen Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return). Given that and Tennell’s recurrent problems with injuries, Levito’s stature as the leading U.S. woman seemed assured. Whatever pressure she felt holding that position was not evident.

“My entire goal truly for both programs was to stay composed and to really try to suppress my nerves as much as possible and to really not let little minor silly mistakes happen,” Levito said. “I feel as though I did just that today and I’m very proud of myself for it.”

“I’ve gotten very good at suppressing nerves,” she had said after the short program. “I still feel the effects of the competition. But I find my own way mentally to handle it.”

For both Tennell and Glenn, there was a redemptive quality to their skating.

Neither had a result at last year’s nationals. Glenn had to withdraw after the short program when she tested positive for COVID. Tennell never made it to the event because of the foot injury that kept her out of competition for all last season.

“Honestly, it was terrifying being back here after the conclusion of my season last year,” Glenn said. “That was a big mental hurdle for me, but I was happy I was actually able to enjoy myself again and enjoy competing.”

Glenn made her 10th career attempt at a triple axel, stepping out of the landing after getting full rotational credit. Her persistence in trying that jump, which she never has landed cleanly, is one reason she was holding her hip after finishing the free skate. Glenn insisted it was just soreness.

“An unfortunate side effect of being 23 and doing these ultra (difficult) elements is my body can’t always keep up very well,” Glenn said.

Tennell, who turns 25 Tuesday, has been battling an injury in her right foot for more than a year, then an injury in her left foot since October. She fought past all that to make the podium for the fifth time in her last five nationals – twice first, twice second and once third.

“This one probably means the most, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this again,” Tennell said. “To be here and to have achieved it, especially after the (poor) start of my season and the bumps that I had to overcome, I’m very proud of what I accomplished.”

Levito, the reigning world junior champion, reeled off seven triple jumps, two in combination with other triple jumps. She glided from element to element seamlessly.

“I finally skated the free the way I’ve been training to do it,” she said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James

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.

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