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Felix Neureuther wins season-opening World Cup slalom

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LEVI, Finland (AP) — Felix Neureuther of Germany won the season-opening men’s World Cup slalom on Sunday after first-run leader Dave Ryding skied out.

Aiming to become the first British skier to win a race in the 50-year-history of the Alpine skiing World Cup, Ryding put in a dominant performance.

He led second-place Neureuther by 0.14 seconds after the opening leg and stretched his advantage to 0.51 in the final run before a mistake threw him off the course. He lay on his back in the snow for several seconds before getting up and skiing down.

It was the second time that Ryding came close to a World Cup triumph. He also led after the first run of the slalom in Kitzbuehel in January before finishing runner-up to Marcel Hirscher.

Ryding, who turns 31 next month, enjoyed his breakthrough on the World Cup last season, four years after winning the slalom title of the lower-tier Europa Cup circuit.

“I have been very lucky that Dave went out. He was extremely fast,” Neureuther said after finishing in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.83 seconds to beat Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway by 0.37 and Mattias Hargin of Sweden by 0.45.

“Winning my first race being a father makes it even more special,” said Neureuther, whose partner Miriam Goessner, a professional biathlete and cross-country skier, gave birth to daughter Matilda last month.

It was Neureuther’s 13th career victory but first since winning a slalom in Yuzawa Naeba, Japan, in January 2016. The 33-year-old German has been hindered by persistent back problems in recent seasons.

Hirscher was 1.32 behind in 17th spot in an unexpected appearance just 87 days after breaking his left ankle. The Austrian six-time overall champion only resumed training earlier this week.

Hirscher’s mishap occurred in August on his first day back on snow in the offseason. He was back on skis in early October but was forced to take another four weeks off because his ankle was still hurting too much.

“The first run was super, that went sensationally well,” said the Austrian, who was in fourth spot after the opening leg before several mistakes on the final run cost him.

“In the end I hoped for a better result,” Hirscher said. “But I have a lot of motivation to get my speed back. Today showed me that at the moment I am still lacking the class of the other guys.”

The race in Finnish Lapland was the first of the Olympic season after a giant slalom in Austria was canceled because of bad weather two weeks ago.

The men’s World Cup continues with speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 25-26.

Mikaela Shiffrin wins ninth straight slalom in rout

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her ninth straight slalom race and her second since returning from a December knee injury, crushing the field by 2.36 seconds in Jasna, Slovakia, on Sunday.

“Both runs, I don’t know, I tried to pretend like there was a bear chasing me,” Shiffrin said. “I was kind of scared both runs. I was like, just go faster. It worked really well.”

Swiss Wendy Holdener was second, followed by Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova. Swede Frida Hansdotter finished 10th and clinched the World Cup slalom season title, a task made easier since Shiffrin missed most of the campaign with a knee injury. Full Sunday results are here.

The youngest Olympic slalom champion Shiffrin’s winning streak dating to the February 2015 World Championships includes that World title, a National title and seven World Cup slaloms.

It’s the longest women’s World Cup slalom winning streak since four-time Olympic champion Janica Kostelic won 10 straight from 1999 through 2001.

During Shiffrin’s streak, she’s notched the largest World Cup women’s slalom margin of victory (3.07 seconds) and the fourth-largest (2.65 seconds), according to ski-db.com.

“When the margins are big like that, it feels like a dream, a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m scared that I’m going to wake up.”

On Sunday, she led by 1.67 seconds after the first run.

“In the two months off, I definitely lost a little bit of the confidence in my timing, but that run I definitely had it,” Shiffrin told media in Jasna of her first run. “No doubt on that one.”

Shiffrin was mathematically eliminated from being able to win her fourth straight World Cup slalom season title because she missed six of the 10 slaloms this season due to the injury. Hansdotter earned the title while winning one race this season.

“Frida has been as consistent as I have been, or even more consistent in the past three, four years,” Shiffrin said. “She deserves to get the globe, to be honest. I’m really happy for her. I want to present it to her myself, just so she knows I’m like, good job, but I’m going to crush you next year. Just kidding.”

Shiffrin’s definitely over the first knee injury of her career, suffered in a pre-race crash on Dec. 12 in Are, Sweden.

“Thankfully, my knee is probably the most 100 percent part of me,” Shiffrin said at the bib draw on Saturday.

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a giant slalom in Jasna scheduled for Monday. There is one more slalom left, at the World Cup Finals in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on March 19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins back-to-back slalom races at Aspen World Cup

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“I think there’s something special about Aspen,” Mikaela Shiffrin told NBC after winning two slalom races in as many days.

After Saturday’s history-making win, when Shiffrin won her first World Cup race in the U.S. and was the first American woman to win a slalom race at the Aspen World Cup stop, the twenty-year-old won again by a large margin. After winning by 3:07 seconds on Saturday, Shiffrin told reporters, “I don’t think [my competitors] are going to let me get away with three seconds ever again.”

But on Sunday her lead over the second place finisher, Frida Hansdotter of Sweden, wasn’t much shorter: 2:65 seconds. And this was with an early mistake that left her off balance for a moment in her final run.

In third place was Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic.

Watch Shiffrin’s final run:

This weekend also saw a podium finish for American Travis Ganong. Racing the downhill event at Lake Louise yesterday, Ganong finished third behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who is recovering from an Achilles injury that prevented him from competing the majority of the last season, and Peter Fill of Norway. Ganong cAksel Lund Svindal of Norwayouldn’t quite repeat his success in the Super G event on Sunday, finishing fourth.

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