Alpine team event preview: Mikaela Shiffrin to race final 2022 Olympic event

Mikaela Shiffrin of the USA reacts at the finish line after her fall on the slope.
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Update: Alpine skiing’s mixed team event – originally scheduled for Saturday in Beijing – was delayed until Sunday (Saturday night in the U.S.) due to high winds. The competition is now scheduled to begin at 8pm ET on Saturday night (9am on Sunday in Beijing). On Her Turf will provide live updates once competition gets underway – follow along here


As Alpine skiing’s mixed gender team event makes its second Winter Olympics appearance, Mikaela Shiffrin will compete for the sixth and final time at these Games.

The 26-year-old Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, finished ninth in women’s super-G and 18th in the downhill and skied out in the giant slalom, slalom and the slalom portion of the combined at these 2022 Winter Olympics. The disappointing performance has Shiffrin baffled yet demonstrating some weighty perspective while competing in all six Olympic Alpine events.

“Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately,” Shiffrin tweeted after the combined Thursday, calling out some of the online abuse she has received since her first DNF. “I come back because those first 9 turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That’s where I’m meant to be and I’m stubborn as s—. So let’s go for some team event training tomorrow, and then the final race of this Olympics.”

Shiffrin will team up with Paula Moltzan, Tommy Ford, Luke Winters, A.J. Hurt and River Radamus.

“I’m really excited because it adds a really user-friendly, watchable event, to the Olympics,” Moltzan told On Her Turf. “Ski racing is not the easiest [to follow] whereas the team event is a head-to-head competition where you can see who’s faster.”

2022 WINTER OLYMPICS: LIVE UPDATES FROM ALPINE SKIING’S TEAM EVENT

This knockout-format team event, one of nine mixed-gender events being staged (four of which are new), debuted at the 2005 world championships in Bormio, Italy, and was added as a regular event in the World Cup Finals beginning in 2006. Switzerland won the inaugural Olympic team event in 2018 with a team that featured slalom silver medalist Wendy Holdener, who followed up with a slalom bronze and a silver in the combined. Austria claimed silver and Norway took bronze to complete an all-European sweep.

How to watch alpine skiing’s mixed team event at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

After being delayed a day due to high winds, the mixed team parallel slalom kicks off with the Round of 16 in the U.S. on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. ET.

Event Date / Time (U.S. Eastern) Date / Time (Beijing, China) How to Watch
Alpine Skiing – Mixed Team Event 2/19/22 8:00 PM 2/20/22 9:00 AM Peacock | NBCOlympics.com

What are the U.S. team’s chances in the parallel slalom?

The U.S. faces stiff competition from the usual suspects, with Shiffrin’s 2022 Olympic finale grabbing its share of the spotlight.

While Shiffrin doesn’t regularly participate in the team competition, she hinted ahead oh her first race that she was interested in the event this time.

Moltzan believes the U.S. is a medal contender with Shiffrin in the lineup.

“She’s still the best in the world, and she’s gonna put on a fight,” said Moltzan, who is making her Olympics debut and finished eighth in the slalom and 12th in the giant slalom. “I think any athlete, when you’re paired head-to-head with them, is going to push harder than ever, and I think she will be totally fine with no experience in parallel in a while. … I think it will be no problem for her to step in and (be) the fastest competitor on the hill.”

In 2018, the U.S. team did not have stars like Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn or Ted Ligety in the lineup and lost in the first round to 13th-ranked Great Britain.

What countries will contend in the Olympic Alpine mixed team event?

Switzerland is the defending Olympic champion, and they followed up their 2018 Olympic gold with a win at the 2019 world championships. They currently lead the individual Alpine medal count, with five gold, one silver and three bronze. Among the Swiss medalists are Lara Gut-Behrami (gold in super-G, bronze in GS in 2022), Holdener (bronze in slalom, silver in combined) and Corinne Suter (gold in downhill).

Austria, silver medalist both at the 2018 Olympics and 2019 worlds, are second in the Alpine medal count with six – two gold, three silver and one bronze. They are led by 2021 women’s parallel giant slalom and slalom world champion Katharina Liensberger, who was part of the silver medal team in 2018 and won silver in the women’s slalom.

The Norwegians enter as the reigning world champions, and they were also on the podium four years ago with a bronze in PyeongChang. Sweden has medaled in five of the last six world championships (bronze in 2011, 2015, 2017; silver in 2013, 2021), while Germany won bronze at the 2021 worlds. Italy, bronze medalist at 2019 worlds, fields a strong team including three-time Olympic medalist Federica Brignone and world medalist Marta Bassino.

Why is the Alpine mixed team event special?

The parallel slalom is unique in Alpine in that it offers the intensity of a side-by-side duel with the emotion of a team event. Add in the excitement of it being the final Alpine skiing race of the Games, and it’s a recipe for “must-see” action.

“I think it’s a really fun event,” U.S. skier Megan McJames said in 2018. “We’re still working out the kinks, but both racing someone head-to-head and being able to train and race with the boys is super fun.”

“The course is short, so you have to be more precise than the slalom and GS; it’s a cool event that should be continued,” said Michael Matt, who was part of Austria’s silver in PyeongChang.

How does the Olympic Alpine mixed team parallel competition work?

As in 2018, the team competition will feature the 16 best teams seeded in a single-elimination bracket. The competition kicks off with a round of 16, followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final.

The knockout format allows teams to include up to six skiers, but just four racers – two women, two men – compete in each round. Like other parallel slalom competitions, two opponents ski at the same time on two identical courses that sit side-by-side on the slope. The course uses GS gates, although they are slightly closer together than a traditional GS course. The country with the most points after the four races wins. If the teams tie at 2-2, the team with the best aggregate time wins. If both skiers fall or miss a gate, the skier who progressed the farthest wins the point.

While the event will be back at the National Alpine Ski Center in Yanqing, athletes will compete on a different track than was used for any of the women’s or men’s previous five events, moving to a slope that features wider terrain with less severe pitches laterally.

“You can’t really ski parallel on a really steep hill, because it’s just really difficult,” explained Moltzan. “So, it’s a pretty moderate hill with some built-in terrain, but it allows the event to be more fair from left to right. This hill is basically as straightforward as you get.”

On Her Turf editor Alex Azzi and NBC Olympics Research contributed to this report. 

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Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.