SKIING

Mikaela Shiffrin won a night slalom Tuesday to end a year-long victory drought in her strongest discipline and earn her 100th World Cup podium at Flachau, Austria.

Shiffrin, who last triumphed in a slalom in December 2019, held on to her opening-run lead and beat Katharina Liensberger by 0.19 seconds following a near-flawless final run, denying the Austrian her first career win.

Liensberger is the only skier to finish in the top three of all five slaloms so far this season.

“So much energy has been building up, it all, like, went out on that run,” said Shiffrin, who was away from the circuit for much of 2020 because of injuries and the death of her father. “What can I say? That’s cool.”

The result made Shiffrin the eighth skier in the 54-year-long history of the World Cup to reach 100 podium finishes.

On the women’s side, only Lindsey Vonn (137), Annemarie Moser-Proell (114), Renate Goetschl (110) and Vreni Schneider (101) have more top-three finishes than Shiffrin.

“I definitely wasn’t thinking about records today,” Shiffrin said. “I just wanted to ski well. This slope kind of tripped me up the last couple of years and I just wanted to ski, like, I don’t know, strong and inspired. It’s really, really fun tonight.”

Wendy Holdener was 0.43 behind in third, extending her record to 25 podiums without winning a race in the slalom discipline.

Overall World Cup leader Petra Vlhova, who won three of the previous four slaloms this season, placed fourth.

Michelle Gisin in fifth was 1.52 off the lead. Two weeks ago, Gisin won in another Austrian resort, Semmering, to become the first skier other the Shiffrin or Vlhova to win a World Cup slalom in 29 races since January 2017.

Shiffrin has finished on the podium here all eight times she competed in the floodlit race since 2013, including four wins.

She has won a record 44 World Cup slaloms and 68 races overall, putting in her outright third place on the all-time winners list, one ahead of Marcel Hirscher.
Only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Vonn (82) have more wins.

Shiffrin led a strong showing by the U.S. ski team, with Paula Moltzan in ninth earning her first top-10 result in slalom.

A.J. Hurt finished 29th for her career best in the discipline. Hurt had not scored World Cup points before this season but now has top-30 finishes in four different events.

Camille Rast of Switzerland, a late starter with bib No. 57 who had not qualified for a second run before, was 14th after the opening run and finished the race in sixth.

The race was the last slalom before the world championships in Italy in February.

The women’s World Cup continues with two giant slaloms in Kranjska Gora this weekend, after the races were moved for another Slovenian resort, Maribor, because of a lack of snow.

TENNIS

ABU DHABI OPEN: Aryna Sabalenka reached the final after winning her 14th straight match and will face Veronika Kudermetova for the first WTA title of the year in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Sabalenka had eight aces in her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Maria Sakkari. Kudermetova defeated 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk 7-6 (8), 6-4.

“I’m really looking forward to this final,” Sabalenka said. “I’m just focusing on the right things. This helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins, and secondly, to keep winning.”

Sabalenka finished last season with wins at the indoor tournaments in Ostrava and Linz and has won her first five matches of the new season in Abu Dhabi. The Belarusian is 8-4 in career tour finals and has won her last five.

Sabalenka will rise to seventh in the rankings if she wins the title on Wednesday.

“She gave me zero chances to come back,” Sakkari said of the match against Sabalenka. “I just couldn’t find a way. From the baseline she was dictating and playing really big.”

Kudermetova reached her first tour final after saving a set point in the tiebreaker against Kostyuk.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: John Isner says he’ll skip the Australian Open because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Isner disclosed his decision late Monday night after losing to fellow American Sebastian Korda in the quarterfinals of the Delray Beach Open.

Isner, 35, has two young children and said he wanted his family to travel together to “make it as much fun as possible on the road … because I won’t be playing tennis forever.” But that’s not possible because of the virus, he said, and going to Australia this year would have meant too much time away from his family.

SOCCER

U.S. MEN: Orlando midfielder Andrés Perea has been given approval by FIFA to switch his affiliation to the United States from Colombia.

The 20-year-old trained with the U.S. national team in December and is with the U.S. under-23 team this week in Bradenton, Florida.

Perea, who turned 20 on Nov. 14, started for Colombia at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, including a 3-1 group-stage win over the U.S. and a quarterfinal loss to Germany. He started all five matches for Colombia at the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.

The U.S. Soccer Federation made the announcement Tuesday and said it was informed of FIFA’s approval on Friday.

BASKETBALL

WNBA: The Connecticut Sun have agreed to a four-year contract extension with Curt Miller that is designed to keep the team’s coach and general manager in the fold through the 2024 season.

Financial terms of the deal announced Tuesday were not disclosed.

Miller has been coaching the Sun since 2016 and has compiled a regular-season record of 89-69 and a postseason record of 9-8. He added general manager to his duties in 2017.

Miller has led the team to four consecutive playoff appearances, including the 2019 WNBA Finals, where the Sun lost to Washington in five games. This past season the team was ousted by Las Vegas in the semifinals.

HANDBALL

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: The Czech Republic has been forced to withdraw from the upcoming handball world championship in Egypt after the team was decimated by coronavirus infections.

The Czech Handball Federation said Tuesday it was impossible for the national team to participate in the Jan. 13-31 tournament after 13 of the 21 players and several coaches tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The International Handball Federation said North Macedonia will replace the Czechs, who were scheduled to play in Group G together with host Egypt, Sweden and Chile. The 27th edition of the handball worlds will be played without spectators.


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