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.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

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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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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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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