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Mikaela Shiffrin opens World Cup season with 70th victory

Mikaela Shiffrin conquered the giant slalom course in Solden, Austria, in the opening race of the World Cup season.
Mikaela Shiffrin conquered the giant slalom course in Solden, Austria, in the opening race of the World Cup season.Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom/Getty

A friendly pat on the back from her rival Petra Vlhova and a long hug from boyfriend (and 2020 overall men’s champion) Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in the finish area were Mikaela Shiffrin’s rewards for excelling in the season-opening World Cup giant slalom on Saturday in Solden, Austria. Shiffrin showed two runs of near-flawless skiing on one of the toughest hills on the women’s circuit to earn her 70th career win. Shiffrin, 26, became only the third skier in World Cup history to reach the 70-win mark, after Ingemar Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat before they finished their careers on 86 and 82 wins, respectively. The Olympic champion’s performance was too much even for Lara Gut-Behrami, the reigning GS world champion from Switzerland. Shiffrin sat .02 seconds behind Gut-Behrami after the opening leg but put in another clean run in the second to edge her Swiss rival by .14 in perfect sunny conditions on the Rettenbach glacier. The pair finished well ahead of the rest of the field, with defending overall champion Petra Vlhova of Slovakia trailing by 1.30 seconds in third. The men’s World Cup starts Sunday with a GS on the same hill.

AUTO RACING

Formula One duel comes to Texas

Formula One’s dramatic title race took another turn when Max Verstappen edged title rival Lewis Hamilton for the pole at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where the seven-time champion Hamilton has dominated. Hamilton has won the US Grand Prix five times. But it was Verstappen, the points leader, and fan favorite Sergio Perez, of Guadalajara, Mexico, who dominated qualifying and the Red Bulls flanked Hamilton headed into Sunday’s race. Verstappen won the pole at the buzzer by a mere .209 seconds. It was a dramatic battle for the pole in their season-long tussle for the championship, and set up a tense start to Sunday’s race when Verstappen and Hamilton will sprint to the first uphill turn. Given their history of race-changing collisions already this season — they’ve wrecked twice during a race and on Friday in practice Verstappen flipped his middle finger and called Hamilton a ‘stupid idiot’ — the fight for the lead should be fierce. The race was canceled last year by the coronavirus pandemic and enthusiastic crowds have turned out for Formula One in its return. Race organizers expected 120,000 fans for Saturday qualifying, and a sold-out 140,000 for Sunday’s race. That size crowd would qualify as one as one of the largest for a sporting event since the start of the pandemic . . . Ty Gibbs upset the field again, racing to his fourth Xfinity Series victory of the season and stopping title contenders AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric from advancing to the championship round. Gibbs passed reigning champion Cindric with 10 laps remaining at Kansas Speedway and the 19-year-old cruised to yet another victory in his part-time Joe Gibbs Racing ride. The grandson of the Hall of Fame team owner needed only to start the ARCA Series race later Saturday to clinch that championship. He’ll be full-time in the Xfinity Series next season, but for now, he’s a roadblock for the championship contenders. Cindric finished second and Allmendinger was third. A playoff driver has yet to win in this round of the playoffs, so all four spots in the championship finale are wide open next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

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GOLF

Flesch grabs lead in Champions playoff event

Steve Flesch birdied the par-4 18th hole for a 5-under-par 67 and a two-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer and Steven Alker in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va., the first of three PGA Tour Champions playoff events. Flesch reached 13-under 131 with his second straight bogey-free round on The Country Club of Virginia’s James River Course. He has played the back nine in 9 under. The 54-year-old Flesch won the 2018 Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his lone senior title. He won four times on the PGA Tour. Langer, the 64-year-old German star who leads the Charles Schwab Cup points standings, also had a 67. He won the Richmond event in 2017. Tim Petrovic (67) and Doug Barron (68) were 10 under, and Jeff Sluman (68) and Gene Sauers (68) followed at 8 under. Defending champion Phil Mickelson closed with quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 ninth for a 74. He was tied for 49th at 1 over . . . Hee Jeong Lim took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the LPGA Tour’s BMW Ladies Championship after a 7-under in Busan, South Korea. Lim had a 54-hole total of 18-under 198. Fellow South Korean players Jin Young Ko (67) and Na Rin An (69) were tied for second. American Danielle Kang shot 69 and was five strokes behind Lim and tied for third. Lim has not had a bogey through the first three rounds. The LPGA started out with a four-tournament Asia swing until events in Shanghai, Japan, and Taiwan were either canceled or removed from the schedule due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. That left Busan as a one-off event on the schedule, and many of the top North American players decided not to play . . . Jeff Winther reclaimed the lead at the Mallorca Open in Santa Ponsa, Spain, with an 8-under 62. The Dane was two shots clear of Spain’s Jorge Campillo, who had a third-round 64. Winther, seeking his first European Tour win, repeated the 62 from his first round after shooting 1-over par on Friday. He was bogey-free and had eight birdies, including the last three holes.

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TENNIS

Kontaveit gets free pass to final

Anett Kontaveit will face Ekaterina Alexandrova in the final of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow after Maria Sakkari retired from her semifinal match. Sakkari was trailing 4-1 in the first set when she retired. Tournament organizers said she cited dizziness. In the men’s tournament, Aslan Karatsev reached his third final of a breakout 2021 season by beating fellow Russian Karen Khachanov, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1, and will face two-time Kremlin Cup winner Marin Cilic for the title. Karatsev saved four set points in the first-set tiebreaker as he turned around a 6-3 deficit. Karatsev started the season by reaching the Australian Open semifinals on his Grand Slam debut and followed up with the Dubai Open title in March and as Serbia Open runner-up in April. Cilic, who won the tournament in 2014 and ‘15, came through his semifinal match 6-3, 6-4 against Ricardas Berankis after going a break down in the second set . . . Top-seeded Jannik Sinner reached his fifth tour-level final of the season and stayed in contention for the ATP Finals by beating Lloyd Harris, 6-2, 6-2, at the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium. Second-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina beat American qualifier Jenson Brooksby, 6-4, 6-0, in the other semifinal at the indoor hard-court tournament

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MISCELLANY

Blackhawks’ Kane in COVID protocol

Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane missed practice because of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Fellow forward Ryan Carpenter and defenseman Erik Gustafsson also missed practice for the same reason. The announcement doesn’t necessarily mean that any of the players tested positive; general manager Stan Bowman said during training camp that the team was 100 percent vaccinated. Chicago hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night. The struggling Blackhawks are off to a 0-4-1 start . . . The Denver Broncos acquired pass rusher Stephen Weatherly in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Weatherly was playing sparingly at defensive end for the Vikings after re-signing with them this year, behind Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, and D.J. Wonnum. The Vikings also sent the Broncos a 2022 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a 2023 seventh-round draft pick while unloading the remaining portion of his $1.5 million base salary . . . Green Bay Packers center Josh Myers has been placed on injured reserve after hurting his knee in a victory last Sunday over the Bears. The Packers (5-1) elevated guard Ben Braden from the practice squad to the active roster for Sunday’s game against Washington (2-4) . . . Ecuadorian sprinter Alex Quiñónez was fatally shot in the port city of Guayaquil, police said. Quiñónez, who was 32, became a national hero in 2012 when he reached the 200 meter final at the London Games, finishing seventh in a race won by Usain Bolt. Guayaquil-based newspaper El Universo reported Quiñónez was fatally shot on a street in the northwest section of the city around 9:20 p.m. Friday and that another man was also killed. There were no immediate report of arrests.

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