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Mikaela Shiffrin starts 2020 by putting 2019 in its place; Zagreb TV, live stream schedule

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Mikaela Shiffrin said she didn’t sleep for three days after what may prove a turning point in her season, a 17th-place giant slalom finish on Dec. 17. She described her skiing that day as “appalling.”

“I really, really hope I haven’t messed this up for the rest of the season,” Shiffrin said of her thoughts at the time in Courchevel, France. “There’s also the other aspect of it. … After the [record] 17 victories last season, it’s been more difficult than I expected to not compare every move I make this season to what I did last season and to not feel like, no matter what I do, I’m coming up short either overall points wise or race wins wise or how I’m handling my energy.”

Shiffrin then skipped the following weekend’s races before sweeping a giant slalom and slalom in Lienz, Austria, last weekend.

She’s back on track heading into the first race of 2020, a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia on Saturday (10 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold). She’s favored to earn her 65th World Cup victory and 44th in a slalom to break Lindsey Vonn‘s record for the most victories in a single discipline for a woman.

Shiffrin said she would use “appalling” to describe many of her races over a decade-long career.

“But none of them have ended up with a result as low as Courchevel,” she said of her worst finish in a technical race — outside of DNFs — in more than five years. “It was more than anything a wake-up call that everybody’s improving. I never expect to win races, and I never expect to even podium, but I really can’t just come to the finish line crossing my fingers that it might be good enough. I have to make it good enough. If I don’t, then I might be in 17th place.”

Shiffrin’s parents traveled to Europe for Christmas week, as planned, but her mom and longtime coach, Eileen, flew over two days early. Back in the fall, Eileen had stepped back from her coaching role (mutual decision) and didn’t travel for the season-opening slalom in November.

The hope is that Eileen will stay in Europe through a Jan. 14 slalom in Flachau, Austria. Possibly through speed races in late January and early February.

“She gives me strength that I can’t find within myself,” Shiffrin said. “I could really feel that this past weekend [in Lienz]. It’s always been that way.”

Shiffrin won four of her last five starts in the Zagreb slalom, which awards a crystal Snow Queen crown to winners. She made the podium of the last 14 traditional World Cup slaloms, winning all but one of them.

That kind of dominance allowed Shiffrin to train slalom just once or twice in the first four weeks of December yet still prevail in Lienz by .61 of a second.

But it’s Shiffrin’s GS struggles — even if just one day of 17th-place racing after making the previous six podiums — that led her to question if she had peaked at age 24. She listed that one result as one of her most unforgettable moments of 2019, along with winning last season’s slalom world title and giant slalom World Cup title, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Maybe the best version of me is in the past, and that kind of stinks,” said Shiffrin, who at 64 World Cup wins trails just Marcel Hirscher (67), Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86). “This last week [before Lienz] I’ve been trying to come to terms with that not really being the reality. It’s just not comparable. I’ve said it in interviews, and I have to start believing that.”

Shiffrin could be in for her busiest start to a calendar year yet, hopefully contesting the next speed races in Austria from Jan. 11-12, and noting further speed weekends in Bulgaria (Jan. 25-26) and Russia (Feb. 1-2).

“It sounds really ridiculous even reflecting on it now,” Shiffrin, who appears en route to a fourth straight overall title, said of the Courchevel 17th. “Maybe I just needed to get a grip on reality or gain some perspective, but at the same time this is what I’m doing, and I want to do it as well as I can. It’s a big deal, at least in my own head and what I felt in my heart.”

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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade

Justin Gatlin pulls up in 100m race, three weeks before world champs

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Justin Gatlin pulled up, grabbing his left leg in a 100m in Zagreb, Croatia, on Tuesday, three weeks before he defends his world 100m title in Doha.

Later tests on his hamstring were negative, and he was expected to return to training later this week, his manager said, according to Reuters.

Gatlin similarly trotted across the finish line of a 200m in Grenada on April 13 after grabbing at his left thigh. His manager said then that it was a cramp. He reportedly suffered a right hamstring injury in a May 2018 relay, too.

Gatlin came back this summer to break 10 seconds in three straight meets, becoming a medal favorite for the world championships behind countryman Christian Coleman.

But last week he was fourth at the Diamond League Finals in Zurich, his worst result this season, putting into question his status as the top challenger to Coleman.

Earlier Tuesday, Allyson Felix placed second in the 400m in 51.67 behind world champion Phyllis Francis, who clocked 51.02. Felix raced her second meet since Nov. 28 childbirth by emergency C-section.

Felix is expected to be at worlds, marking her record-breaking ninth world outdoors team. She currently shares the U.S. record of eight teams with retired high jumper Amy Acuff, according to the OlyMADMen.

Felix could be in the 4x400m and mixed-gender 4x400m relay pools but not the individual 400m at worlds, given she placed sixth at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July. Her best time this season, from the USATF Outdoors semifinals, is 51.45, ranking her 40th in the world this year.

MORE: Allyson Felix finds maternity protection with new apparel sponsor

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Marcel Hirscher is fourth male Alpine skier to win 50 World Cups

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Austrian ski superstar Marcel Hirscher became the fourth man to reach 50 career World Cup wins, taking a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Hirscher won his fifth race of the season, a strong recovery from breaking his left ankle in August slalom training.

He edged countryman Michael Matt by .05 combining times from two runs. Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen was third. The top American was Mark Engel in 24th.

The World Cup men’s career wins list:

Ingemark Stenmark (SWE) — 86
Hermann Maier (AUT) — 54
Alberto Tomba (ITA) — 50
Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 50

“Alberto Tomba is a name where you think, oh my God, he is a real living ski legend,” Hirscher said.

Hirscher has now won at least five races in seven straight seasons. He already holds the record of six straight World Cup overall titles.

He leads this season’s standings, eyeing a seventh straight, through 17 of 37 races.

If Hirscher stays on his recent pace, he would pass Stenmark’s 86 wins in 2022 or 2023.

But Hirscher has always cautioned that he could retire after any season, even without an Olympic gold medal.

Hirscher was fourth and fifth in two races at Vancouver 2010 and was upset for slalom gold in Sochi by countryman Mario Matt, the older brother of Michael.

Hirscher grabbed two golds and one silver at each of the last three world championships.

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MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule