Henrik Kristoffersen wins ski worlds slalom; Greece gets first winter sports medal ever

1 Comment

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen rallied from 16th place after the first run to win the world Alpine skiing championships slalom.

AJ Ginnis took silver for Greece’s first Olympic or world championships medal in any Winter Olympic program event, according to the International Ski Federation.

A technically demanding first section of the second run wreaked havoc in the final event of the two-week worlds in Courchevel, France.


Kristoffersen, 28, mastered it for his second world title and first in his primary event. Kristoffersen has 23 World Cup slalom wins, fourth in men’s history, and until Sunday was the only man or woman with more than 11 World Cup slalom victories who had not won an Olympic or world title in the event.

He had to wait in the leader’s chair for nearly a half-hour while the 15 skiers went who were faster than him in the first run.

“It’s way worse sitting at the bottom, waiting, than standing at the start, leading after the first run,” said Kristoffersen, the 2019 World giant slalom champion who in previous Olympic and world championships slaloms had finishes of third, third, fourth, fourth and fourth. “I won most things in slalom except Olympic gold and world championship gold. So, I think it was about time.”

Ginnis, also 28, raced for the U.S. at the 2017 Worlds, then was dropped from the national team after the 2017-18 season following several injuries and a best World Cup finish of 26th.

He switched to his birth nation of Greece, where he had learned to ski at Mount Parnassus, a 2 ½-hour drive from Athens. He moved to Austria at age 12 and then Vermont three years after that.

Ginnis, whose had six knee surgeries, tore an ACL last year and thought he was done with ski racing when he went to Beijing to work the Olympics for NBC. That experience lit a fire.

On Feb. 4, Ginnis finished second in the last World Cup slalom before worlds after never previously finishing in the top 10 of a World Cup race.

“When I came back, I told myself, my goal is to go into the next Olympic cycle being a medal contender,” he said. “Fighting back from injuries, getting cut from teams, trying to fundraise for what we’re doing now. … This is a dream come true on every level.”

Ginnis does not blame the U.S. team for letting him go.

“All credit to them,” he said after placing second in the first run Sunday. “They did develop me. I think for me it was like a will of wanting to ski for my home country because I did grow up there and then for them, I was a really injured athlete. So I don’t blame them at all for cutting the team when they did. It sure made things harder for me.”

Italian Alex Vinatzer earned bronze, which ensured Norway finished worlds with the most medals outright for the first time in history.

Austria won zero golds at a worlds for the first time since 1987, missing its last chance when first-run leader Manuel Feller finished tied for seventh on Sunday.

Luke Winters was the top American in 30th.

The men’s Alpine skiing World Cup season resumes next weekend with a giant slalom and slalom in Palisades Tahoe, California.

Mikaela Shiffrin‘s next races are the first weekend in March at a World Cup stop in Kvitfjell, Norway. She is one World Cup victory shy of the career record of 86 held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark, a slalom and giant slalom star of the 1970s and ’80s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!