Alpine World Cup

Course worker accidentally halts World Cup skier’s slalom run

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Argentine skier Cristian Javier Simari Birkner was the 75th and final skier on the start list for Wednesday’s World Cup slalom in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.

A course worker must have thought the race had only 74.

The worker was near a flag on the course but scrambled away after realizing Simari Birkner was approaching. The damage was already done, as a distracted Simari Birkner pulled up and, with a look of desolation, abandoned his run.

The race winner was Switzerland’s Daniel Yule, who has won only twice on the World Cup circuit, both times on this slope and in back-to-back years. Yule has been on the podium one other time this season, taking third in November in Levi, Finland.

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen finished second to take the lead in the World Cup slalom standings and move up to third overall. France’s Clement Noel placed third and stands just behind Kristoffersen in the slalom standings.

Alexis Pinturault moved into the overall World Cup lead, finishing fifth.

Simari Birkner, 39, has been a fixture in international skiing for years, competing in World Cup races since 1998. Wednesday’s race, though, was his first World Cup event of the season. His career-best World Cup finish is 26th in a super combined event in 2012 in Sochi. His only other top-30 World Cup finish was 29th in the same event in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He has never reached the final run of a World Cup in slalom or giant slalom.

But he has fared better in Olympic and world championship competition, with a career best of 17th in each. He was 17th in the 2002 Olympic slalom and has six top-30 Olympic finishes, two each in the slalom, giant slalom and combined. He has twice finished 17th in world championships — the 2003 giant slalom and the 2007 slalom — and has 11 top-30s.

Simari Birkner has three younger sisters — Maria Belen, Macarena and Angelica — who also compete, with similar results.

A course worker also was in the way earlier this season in Alta Badia, Italy, where Croatia’s Filip Zubcic had to swerve to avoid someone at the finish line as he finished 10th in a giant slalom.

TV: Alpine skiing broadcast schedule

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Dominik Paris takes Alpine World Cup downhill win record in Bormio

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Italian skier Dominik Paris etched his name on one of the prime ski locations in his home country, becoming the winningest downhill racer in World Cup events in Bormio.

Paris won for the fourth time Friday, breaking a tie for wins on the Bormio slope with retired Austrian skier Michael Walchhofer. The 30-year-old skier also moved into second place in the overall World Cup standings and in the downhill standings. His best World Cup season was last year, when he was fourth overall, first in the super-G and second in the downhill.

Two-time defending World Cup downhill champion Beat Feuz maintained his lead in the World Cup downhill standings with a second-place finish. Austria’s Matthias Mayer rounded out the podium to move up to fourth overall. Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde placed fourth and is only five points behind Paris in the overall standings.

Travis Ganong was the top American, taking eighth place for his third top-10 run of the season. Ryan Cochran-Siegle continued his breakthrough year with an 11th-place finish, putting him 18th in the overall standings after never finishing higher than 53rd in past years.

Ganong crashed in Bormio two years ago, ruining his chances of racing in the 2018 Olympics.

“It’s really nice to finally have another good result here in Bormio,” Ganong said in a U.S. Ski & Snowboard release. “This is where I had my first top 10, but also two years ago I blew out my knee, and last year it was really bad luck with my ski popping off and I tore my LCL. It was just a grade two tear, so I was able to come back, but I hadn’t had a finish here in two years.”

The speed specialists will have a chance to surge past overall leader Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway with a second downhill scheduled for Saturday in Bormio. The weekend wraps with a combined event Sunday.

Saturday’s race was on the original World Cup season schedule. Friday’s race was a makeup race, rescheduled after bad weather canceled a race in Val Gardena, Italy.

Mikaela Shiffrin will try to rebound from a shocking giant slalom performance when women’s World Cup racing resumes Friday in Lienz, Austria. Shiffrin lost the World Cup lead in giant slalom with a 17th-place finish Dec. 17 in Couchevel, France. She still has a substantial lead in her quest for a fourth consecutive World Cup overall title with 546 points. Italy’s Federica Brignone, who took the giant slalom lead from Shiffrin, is second with 381 points.

The women also have a slalom scheduled on Sunday. Shiffrin has won 12 of her last 13 World Cup slalom races and has finished no lower than second since failing to finish in January 2018.

NBC Sports Gold will have all of the races live this weekend, with the women’s giant slalom runs scheduled for 4:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday. The men’s downhill race will also be on the Olympic Channel at 5:30 a.m. ET.

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Grieving Mikaela Shiffrin returns to World Cup Alpine action with fourth reindeer at stake

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The traditional World Cup Alpine skiing season opener last month in Soelden, Austria, was an emotional one for Mikaela Shiffrin.

Shiffrin’s grandmother, Pauline Condron, was in declining health in the days leading up to the race, making Shiffrin wonder if she should head home instead of staying in Soelden. Condron was especially close to Shiffrin, helping to take care of her soon after birth.

Condron passed away Oct. 22, four days before the Soelden giant slalom, at age 98.

“Polly loved sports,” Condron’s obituary said. “She was an avid bowler in her younger years and enjoyed playing tennis and skiing. Few people know that she excelled at ping pong, had a killer serve, gave up very few games and played into her 90s.”

Condron was able to see Shiffrin in person at World Cup races in Killington, Vt. The World Cup will return next weekend to Killington, which has just passed its FIS inspection.

Shiffrin finished second in Soelden’s giant slalom to an upstart rival, 17-year-old New Zealander Alice Robinson. Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the giant slalom, but she hasn’t won in Soelden since 2014.

In the slalom, Shiffrin is more dominant. She won eight of nine World Cup races last year, losing only to Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, and won her fourth straight world championship despite battling illness. The last time Shiffrin finished worse than second in the technical discipline was in the 2018 Olympics, when she uncharacteristically faltered and finished fourth.

Saturday’s race in Levi, Finland, is a slalom. Shiffrin has won three of the last five races in Levi, which means she also has three reindeer  Rudolph, Sven and Mr. Gru. She can win a fourth on Saturday.

The men also have a slalom this weekend in Levi, racing Sunday.

Both runs for each event stream live on NBC Sports Gold at 4:15 and 7 a.m. ET, with the Olympic Channel also carrying the second runs each day.

MORE: Alpine skiing TV schedule

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