HIGHLIGHTS: Shiffrin wins fourth Alpine Worlds medal, mystery meet produces 10,000 m world leaders, U.S. women top Brazil, 2-0

Elise Cranny moved to no. 3 on the all-time U.S. list with her win at The Ten on Saturday (Photo: Citius Magazine)

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Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Alpine Skiing ● The FIS World Alpine Championships concluded in Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA), with more upsets in the Slalom racing.

The final weekend began with the women’s Slalom, with American Mikaela Shiffrin the four-time defending champion. However, her rival Petra Vlhova (SVK) had won three of the five Slalom races on the World Cup circuit this season, to Shiffrin’s one.

Neither had much of a chance, as it turned one. Austria’s Katharina Liensberger, who tied for the gold in the Parallel Giant Slalom, turned in the fastest time by a huge 0.30 seconds on the first run, clocking 48.48 to 48.78 for Vlhova, with Shiffrin fourth.

Liensberger left no doubt, putting together the fastest second run as well to finish with 1:39.50, an easy winner ahead of Vlhova (1:40.50). Shiffrin came from fourth to third with the third-fastest time on the second run, finishing with a combined total of 1:41.48. Swiss Wendy Holdener was fourth at 1:41.84.

Just 23, Liensberger came into the World Championships never having won a World Cup race, but leaves with two golds and a bronze. Shiffrin, who has won four World Cup medals this season, claimed four Worlds medals – gold in the Combined, silver in the Giant Slalom and bronzes in the Super-G and Slalom – for a career total of 11. And still just 25.

This was a Worlds for the stars, with the 18 women’s medals won by just 10 skiers. Shiffrin won four medals, Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) and Liensberger each won three and Vlhova and Corinne Suter (SUI) each won two.

The men’s Slalom was another come-from-nowhere victory, this time for Norway’s Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, 29, who had won one World Cup race in his career – earlier this season – prior to the World Championships. He was third-fastest on the first run, then led the field in the second run to win with a combined time of 1:46.48. That was 0.21 faster than Austria’s Adrian Pertl, 24, the first-run leader, who had won one World Cup medal (last season) prior to the Worlds. The bronze medal went to veteran Norwegian star Henrik Kristoffersen (1:46.94), for his second career Worlds podium.

The overall medal count saw Switzerland win the most medals, with nine in total (3-1-5), with Austria at eight, but with five wins (one silver, two bronzes). France won five medals and the U.S. and Germany each had four. All of the American medals were won by the amazing Shiffrin.

Artistic Swimming ● The first stage of the FINA World Series was “held” – on a remote basis – with the U.S. as host over the weekend, with very modest interest in terms of entries. All routines were filmed between 27-30 January, but the judging was done this weekend.

The one competition which was of interest was the women’s Solo Free, won by Canadian star Jacqueline Simoneau (90.1000) over American Anita Alvarez (87.1222). The Solo Technical event was won by American Nicole Dzurko (79.6044). The women’s Duet events were both won by Alvarez and Lindi Schroeder of the U.S., scoring 84.9222 in the Free and 82.4588 in the Technical event.

The men’s Solo Free was won by American William May (86.7333); Spain’s Fernando Diaz Del Rio Soto took the Solo Tech (68.5487). The Mixed Duets were both won by Spain’s Pau Ribes and Emma Garcia: 82.2000 in the Free and 81.6159 in the Technical.

The team events were won by the U.S. in the Free (87.5667), Belarus in the Technical (80.4160), the U.S. in the Highlights (85.9000) and Spain in the Combo (85.3667).

Athletics ● Another mystery meet – except to the competitors – was held in San Juan Capistrano, California on Saturday evening called “The Ten” – 10,000 m – aimed at the Olympic qualifying standards of 27:28.00 (men) and 31:25.00 (women). Organized by Sound Running, the results were worth the secrecy.

Ten men started the race, with U.S. Steeple star Evan Jager leading through 5,000 m before dropping out, then Britain’s Marc Scott leading a pack of six through 8,000 m in 21:57.85. Only five continued, as Scott won the race to the finish with a 57.13 last lap to clock a world-leading and lifetime best 27:10.41, with Grant Fisher second (27:11.29), Woody Kincaid third (27:11.78), Ben True fourth (27:14.95) and Thai Kieran Tuntivate fifth (27:17.14), all well under the Tokyo standard.

Fisher moved to no. 5 on the all-time U.S. list, with Kincaid at no. 6 and True at no. 8.

The women’s race had a similar finish, with Elise Cranny storming past Karissa Schweizer on the way to a 65.11 last lap to finish in a world-leading 30:47.42 in her debut at the distance, with the no. 5 performance in U.S. history and making her the no. 3 performer.

This was Schweizer’s first 10,000 since 2018 and she lowered her best from 32:00.55 to 30:47.99 (65.74 last lap), moving her to no. 4 all-time U.S. (no. 7 performance).

Seven of the nine starters finished, with the next four placers all taking Olympic qualifying times: Eilish McColgan (GBR: 30:58.94 lifetime best), Emily Infeld (31:08.57 lifetime best: no. 10 all-time U.S.), Marielle Hall (31:21.78) and Kim Conley (31:30.25 lifetime best). Seventh-placer Gwen Jorgensen ran 32:39.96.

Prize money was raised online from fans and allowed the top two in each race – Cranny and Schweizer and Scott and Fisher – to receive $3,500 and $1,500, respectively.

(Separate report coming later on the fourth American Track League meet in Arkansas.)

Basketball ● The United States won its final two games in the FIBA men’s AmeriCup qualifying tournament, defeating The Bahamas, 93-77, and then Mexico, 96-75, with both games at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In Friday’s game, the U.S. ran out to a 54-40 lead at the half and cruised home behind 19 points from guard Isaiah Thomas and forward James Nunnally, with 15 from guard Dakota Mathias. Forward Brandon Bass led all rebounders with 10 and the Americans held Bahamas to 35.3% shooting from the field.

On Saturday, the U.S. jumped out to a 31-15 lead after the first quarter and 58-33 at the half. Guard Ra’Shad James scored 21 to lead all scorers, followed by Bass (12) and forward Joe Johnson (11, and eight rebounds).

The wins gave the U.S. – coached by Joe Prunty – a perfect 6-0 record and 12 points in Group D, qualifying for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup. Puerto Rico (3-3) and Mexico (2-4) also qualified out of the group.

Biathlon ● The IBU World Championships in Pokljuka (SLO) finished on Sunday with the Mass Start events, with existing medal winners adding to their totals.

The men’s 15 km Mass Start was the second straight win and fourth gold medal of the Championships for 24-year-old Norwegian Sturla Holm Langreid. With only one shooting penalty, he raced to a convincing win in 36:27.2 over teammate Johannes Dale (+10.2 seconds; 2 penalties) and France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet (+12.8; 2 penalties). American Jake Brown was 29th.

Langreid won the 20 km Individual race on the 17th and both relays (see below) for his four wins. With seven races left in the season, he’s now in striking distance of overall leader Johannes Thingnes Boe, 871-839.

Austrian Lisa Theresa Hauser won her third medal at the Worlds and her first gold in the women’s 12.5 km Mass Start race. She shot clean and that helped to give her the win in 36:05.7 over three Norwegians: Ingrid Tandrevold (+21.7 seconds, 1 penalty), Tiril Eckhoff (+23.0, 2 penalties) and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland (+23.6, 3 penalties). American Susan Dunklee was 25th (+3:11.3).

Norway swept both of the team relays. Laegreid, Tarjei Boe, J.T. Boe and Vetle Sjastad Christiansen combined to win the men’s 4×7.5 km event by 33.1 seconds over Sweden and Russia (+50.9). The women’s quartet of Tandrevold, Eckhoff, Ida Lien and Roeiseland took the 4×6 km race in a tight duel with Germany, winning by 8.8 seconds in 1:10.39.0, with Ukraine 8.8 seconds back.

The Norwegians won the women’s race despite having 11 shooting penalties to only five for the Germans and seven for Ukraine.

The overall medal count confirmed the Norwegian domination, with 14 medals (7-3-4) out of a total available of 36. France (2-2-3) had seven and Sweden (1-3-2) had six. Eckhoff had the most individual medals with six (4-1-1), followed by Langreid (4: 4-0-0) and J.T. Boe (4: 2-1-1).

Bobsled & Skeleton ● The Women’s Monobob Series concluded in Koenigssee (GER) with the Swiss duo of Martina Fontanive and Melanie Hasler tying for the win, both with cumulative times of 1:48.37. Australia’s Breeana Walker was third in 1:48.91.

American Nicole Vogt won the seasonal series with 590 points, with four wins, ahead of Walker (502 points) and Brazil’s Marina Silva Tuono (502).

● Football ● The SheBelieves Cup continued on Sunday at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, with the U.S. women facing Brazil in what is expected to be the deciding game of the tournament.

The U.S. put on the pressure from start and Christen Press took a pass from Lindsey Horan down the left side and struck a liner to the right side of the Brazil net in the 11th minute for a 1-0 U.S. lead. The game was increasingly open and fluid and Brazil – especially midfielder Debinha and striker Ludmila – made the U.S. defenders and keeper Alyssa Naeher increasingly uncomfortable as the half ended 1-0. The U.S. had 59% of the possession and led in shots, 12-5.

The second half went back and forth between the endlines, with both sides creating chances, but without any more scoring for the first 40 minutes. Brazil created big chances on a Marta pass to Debinha, who missed an open net in the 82nd minute, and then a curving shot toward goal by Ludmila in the 84th minute that was deflected.

Horan was on the attack in the 88th minute, running down the right side and sent a cross into the middle of the field that found the right foot of substitute striker Megan Rapinoe, who sent it into the net for a 2-0 lead and that’s the way it ended.

The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 36 matches (33-0-3) and 52 on home soil (47-0-5). Naeher had some scares, but posted her 10th consecutive shutout, a team record, and her 40th career shutout.

Today’s late game (6 p.m. Eastern start) had 0-1 Canada playing 0-1 Argentina. The final games of the tournament will be played Wednesday.

Freestyle Skiing ● The Ski Cross World Cup resumed in Reiteralm (AUT), with new winners in this season for both men and women.

Austria’s Johannes Rohrweck, 30, won his first career World Cup gold and first medal in two years by defeating seasonal leader Reece Howden (CAN) in the final, with France’s Bastien Midol third.

Swedish star Sandra Naeslund, the 2021 World Champion, hadn’t won a World Cup race this season, but changed that, finishing ahead of season leader Fanny Smith (SUI) and Canadian Courtney Hoffos, who won first World Cup medal in two years.

Judo ● Georgia’s men and the French women were the stars of the IJF World Tour Grand Slam in Tel Aviv (ISR), but the story was the return of former World Champion Saeid Mollaei at 81 kg.

The 2018 World Champion while competing for Iran, he was ordered by Iranian officials to lose matches at the 2019 Worlds to avoid facing Israeli star Sagi Muki, who eventually became World Champion. Mollaei was spirited away from the arena, left for Europe and finally obtained citizenship – and the ability to compete – for Mongolia.

There was the possibility of meeting Muki, but the Israeli star was surprised in the first round with a loss and eliminated. Mollaei got to the final, but lost to Uzbek Sharofiddin Boltaboev and had to settle for the silver medal.

Georgia won two men’s divisions, with Lasha Bekauri winning at 90 kg and heavyweight Gela Zaalishvili winning and 2018 World Champion Guram Tushishvili third, plus four other medals for a total of seven.

The French women scored gold medals by Shirine Boukli (48 kg), Margaux Pinot (70 kg) and Romane Dicko (+78 kg) to lead all countries, plus three other medals. Host Israel posted a win by Timna Nelson Levy at 57 kg, plus a silver from Gili Cohen at 52 kg.

Nordic Skiing ● In Ski Jumping, both the men and women were in Rasnov (BUL), jumping off the 97 m Trambulina Valea Carbunarii, and it was a good weekend for Japan.

The 2019 World Cup winner, Ryoyu Kobayashi eked out a win, 257.9-256.3 over Polish star Kamil Stoch, with German Karl Geiger third (255.7) in the men’s event.

The women had two competitions, with Slovenian 20-year-old Nika Kriznar taking the opener for her second win of the season. Japanese star Sara Takanashi was second, 235.7-232.9 with Norway’s Silje Opseth third (230.1). But Takanashi came back to make history in the second event, winning for the third time this season and extending her record for World Cup wins to 60 (in 154 appearances). Opseth moved up to second this time, her fourth straight competition with a medal, but well behind Takanashi, 239.2-232.9. Kriznar was third (228.6) and with two medals, claimed the season lead in a tight race with Takanashi, 611-606, after nine of 16 events.

The Cross Country World Cup races in Nove Mesto (CZE) were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Snowboard ● World Cup action in SnowCross resumed in Reiteralm (AUT), with familiar faces on the podium. Home favorite Alessandro Hammerle got to the line first in the men’s final, ahead of new World Champion Lucas Eguibar (ESP), with American veteran Mick Dierdorff third. It’s Hammerle’s 11th career World Cup gold.

Reigning Olympic champ and seasonal leader Michela Moioli won the women’s race, edging American star Lindsey Jacobellis, who won her first medal of the season and 55th of her brilliant career. French star Chloe Trespeuch finished third.

Tennis ● The 109th Australian Open was unique, confusing and altogether frustrating for players, officials and fans, but turned out to, once again, offer compelling competition and demonstrate that where there is the will to overcome the coronavirus, it can be done.

In the end, it was defending champ Novak Djokovic (SRB) who won his ninth Australian Open title and his 18th Grand Slam tournament win. He ran past Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final by 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

The women’s final was a straight-set triumph for Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who won her second Australian Open and fourth Grand Slam title over 25-year-old American Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3. Osaka won her final eight sets of the tournament and lost only one set in her seven matches.

The Doubles titles were all decided in straight-set matches:

Men: Ivan Dodig (CRO)/Filip Polasek (SVK) d. Rajeev Ram (USA)/Joe Salisbury (GBR), 6-3, 6-4.

Women: Elise Mertens (BEL)/Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (CZE), 6-2, 6-3.

Mixed: Barbora Krejcikova (CZE)/Rajeev Ram (USA) d. Samantha Stosur/Matthew Ebden (AUS), 6-1. 6-4.

The tournament’s pandemic rules required many players to be quarantined, and spectator attendance was capped at 50% of capacity until a snap lockdown was ordered on 12 February. That lasted for five days, with the final four days of the event allowing a maximum of 7,477 spectators per match. But the tournament got done, a positive of what can be done, even during a pandemic.

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