Mikaela Shiffrin breaks women’s Alpine skiing World Cup wins record

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Mikaela Shiffrin reset the women’s Alpine skiing World Cup wins record with her 83rd career victory, breaking her tie with Lindsey Vonn by taking a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday.

Shiffrin prevailed by 45 hundredths of a second over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami combining times from two runs. She reacted with typical non-exuberance, hunching over her skis and breathing hard as if exhausted. Moments later, she turned to the crowd and pumped her right arm in the air five times.

“I was feeling less pressure,” about the record, Shiffrin said. “This number 83, it was almost completely out of my mind today. … I guess it’s very fitting that it would come in the moment when I actually am thinking about it the least and don’t expect it at all.”

Shiffrin began the season eight victories behind Vonn. Shiffrin had 74 wins over the previous 10 years, including six, three and five the previous three years. If recent form held, the pursuit of Vonn’s record was supposed to be season-long, perhaps longer.

She caught Vonn less than halfway through the season and passed her with 14 races still to go surrounding February’s world championships. She is now three wins shy of the overall record of 86 held by Ingemar Stenmark, a Swedish slalom and giant slalom ace of the 1970s and ’80s.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin is 27 years old and plans to ski at least through the next Olympics in three years. She has won nine times in 20 starts this fall and winter, conjuring feelings of her peak 2018-19 season that included a record 17 victories.

After a Christmas break, she raced seven times in 15 days, winning five of them, plus the preceding super-G, to move into a tie with Vonn. She then broke the tie in her fifth try, although the last three races were in super-G and downhill, events that she trains little and is not expected to win.

Shiffrin and those closest to her have called her skiing across slalom, giant slalom and super-G this season some of, if not the best of her career.

Upon tying Vonn two weeks ago, Shiffrin reflected in a 35-minute chat with her publicist.

She talked about the chatter when she returned to the World Cup in late 2020, still grieving from her father’s death. “Everyone’s like, well, she just lost it, and she’s just probably not going to win again,” she remembered.

LAYDEN: Shiffrin’s numbers tell us a story we should already know

She mentioned the negative headlines after missing the medals at last year’s Olympics. She spoke of feeling unprepared going into a recent stretch of races due to insufficient training. She laughed off the daily questions about records and win totals, statistical pursuits that she does not prioritize.

How to explain Shiffrin’s return to dominance? She watched a a mid-December chairlift interview between retired Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top downhiller. Goggia spoke about her disdain for mediocrity.

“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put on my skis, I’m like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,'” Shiffrin said two weeks ago.

What’s next? There is Stenmark’s record, and with how sports work, there is a number beyond that. Stenmark predicted last year that she will finish with more than 100 wins.

Her next race is another GS in Kronplatz on Wednesday. Shiffrin said after tying Vonn two weeks ago that she didn’t think she will break Stenmark’s record this season.

“I know it’s possible. Like we have a lot of races left, and there’s not that many ’til I get to that number,” she said. “But I know I might not win another race this season. And people will be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you were so close. What happened?’ And I’m like, ‘That’s ski racing.'”

ON HER TURF: Paula Moltzan on World Cup success, being teammates with Shiffrin

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

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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.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

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
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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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