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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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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