Mikaela Shiffrin talks Rafael Nadal, first visit to French Open

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Mikaela Shiffrin made her first trip to a Grand Slam a memorable one — watching courtside as Rafael Nadal won his 11th French Open title on Sunday.

The 2014 and 2018 Olympic Alpine skiing champion has played recreational tennis since childhood and sometimes against her mother, Eileen, who “spent three hours a day hitting a tennis ball against a wall” as a kid.

Shiffrin said she was “blown away” by the level of play between Nadal and runner-up Dominic Thiem of ski-mad Austria.

Shiffrin was one of many stars in attendance for finals weekend at Roland Garros. She shared Court Philippe Chatrier with Hugh GrantPau GasolZinedine Zidane and Roger Waters on Sunday.

Legendary Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci attended Saturday’s women’s final won by countrywoman Simona Halep.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins final slalom for best career season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her 12th World Cup race this season and seventh slalom, both personal bests, at the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden, on Saturday.

Shiffrin, who clinched her second World Cup overall title and fifth slalom season title before the last races of the campaign this weekend, prevailed by 1.58 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener. PyeongChang gold medalist Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was third.

“The slalom has always been really close to my heart,” said Shiffrin, who won the last two slaloms this season after a shocking fourth-place finish in PyeongChang. “To finish with a run like that was super special.”

Full results are here.

Shiffrin matched Lindsey Vonn‘s American record for World Cup wins in one season — 12 — with one more race Sunday. Only Swiss Vreni Schneider has more women’s World Cup wins in a single campaign with 14.

Shiffrin, who turned 23 on Tuesday, also moved into solo fifth place on the women’s World Cup wins list with 43, including 23 victories in the last two seasons.

If Shiffrin keeps it up, she can move into the top three next season, though Lindsey Vonn‘s record 82 is a ways off.

“I’m not thinking about that so much,” Shiffrin said. “It’s way too soon to set that as my goal.”

Shiffrin is also three World Cup slalom wins shy of the record 35 held by retired Austrian Marlies Schild, whom Shiffrin supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier in 2013.

The World Cup Finals conclude Sunday with the women’s giant slalom. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of the second run at 7:30 a.m. ET.

“After today I’m really looking forward to going to the start one more time this season and hammering down,” Shiffrin said.

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Mikaela Shiffrin’s emotional video to Paralympic skier Thomas Walsh

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As Thomas Walsh underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and pelvic resection treatments, childhood friend Mikaela Shiffrin frequented his hospital bedside.

When he was 14 in 2009, Walsh was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer in his pelvis and lungs.

The Vail, Colo., native received the diagnosis one day before he was to leave to attend Green Mountain Valley School, a ski academy in Vermont, on a full scholarship. Walsh, a promising youth skier, was first coached by Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen.

Walsh received those treatments for 14 months before being declared cancer-free.

One of those days in the hospital, Shiffrin told Walsh that she had never been to a high school prom. “Mikaela said to me, ‘You better be around for that because you’re taking me to your prom,'” Walsh said, according to The New York Times.

Walsh did just that in 2012. Then in 2014, Walsh traveled to Sochi through the Make-A-Wish Foundation to watch his longtime friend compete in the Olympics.

It motivated Walsh to research para Alpine skiing. He debuted on the World Cup in 2015 and by 2017 competed at worlds.

Then on Sunday, the 23-year-old Walsh made his Paralympic debut, finishing 13th in the standing super-G in PyeongChang.

“It’s a whole bunch of emotions,” Walsh said on NBCSN. “As all of our athletes and people with disabilities, I know there’s a lot of different struggles. Competing in the Games is a pretty big dream of mine.”

Walsh was then shown a video screen of a taped message from Shiffrin, who was in Germany for World Cup competition.

“I wish I could hug you right now and tell you that we’re so proud of you,” Shiffrin said, sniffling back tears. “I love you.”

Walsh was taken aback.

“Mikaela may be a champion and a star and an international hero, some would say, to ski racing,” he said. “I’ll even say the greatest female ski racer of all time, but above it all she’s just one of my good friends. … You look at me now. I’m standing here talking to you. I look pretty normal. Mikaela was there when I was really in the dumps and life was really uncertain.”

Walsh is next scheduled to race in the super combined on Monday night (ET). NBCSN coverage of the Paralympics continues at 9 p.m.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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