Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn says she’s almost all the way back from injury

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Lindsey Vonn may have missed the first race of the season, but the Olympic downhill champion said she feels no trepidation about her surgically repaired right knee and can’t even tell which knee is injured anymore.

“I work hard, that’s what I do,” Vonn told Matt Lauer on TODAY on Monday morning. “I fall. I get back up. It’s who I am. Obviously, this is the biggest setback I’ve ever had, but I’m skiing really well. I’ve only been on snow for a few days, but I’m already almost right back where I was. So things are looking up.”

Vonn hasn’t competed since tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her right knee and breaking her tibia in a crash at the World Championships super-G in Schladming, Austria, on Feb. 5. She’s expected to return for races in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Thanksgiving weekend.

The 29-year-old said retirement wasn’t an option.

“I don’t want that to be the final moment of my career,” Vonn said. “Obviously, I could have retired, and I have a lot to be proud of. There’s a lot more I want to do. Sochi is a huge goal of mine. I had plenty of motivation. I wasn’t going to just sit there and accept what I had already done.”

Video: Vonn films first crash since return to skiing

One of the people who helped her get through rehabilitation was her boyfriend, Tiger Woods. Vonn pointed out one of Woods’ attributes that has really helped her.

“Patience,” she said. “I’m not a very patient person. … He’s very patient, and he’s very mentally tough. He’s a grinder. He works extremely hard.”

Woods had left ACL surgery five years ago.

“He knew what I was going through,” Vonn said. “He said, ‘Just be patient. Keep working hard, and everything’s going to turn around.’ It really helped me get through it. It’s tough. You’re sitting there, grinding away in the gym, and it’s like is this ever going to end? Am I ever going to get back on the slopes?”

Asked if she would make the podium in Sochi in a little over 100 days, Vonn said, “You better believe it.”

Vonn hoped to race in the season-opening World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday but opted out of it Wednesday. She expects, instead, to make her season debut in Beaver Creek.

“To be honest, Soelden was never really in my goals,” Vonn told USA Today. “But then (September training in) Chile went so well I was really hoping to race. I’m very, very antsy to get going. … My knee felt great, but the fact is I only trained five days (in Soelden) … and it’s tough to go into one of the most difficult giant slalom races of the season having only trained five days. I thought I was going to be able to do it, but in the long run it has no effect on my season and my main goal is the Olympics.”

Sorenstam, King weigh in on Vonn racing men

Video: Ligety wins season opener; skis into camera

Kristi Yamaguchi tells Nancy Kerrigan to ‘break a leg’ on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Kristi Yamaguchi told Nancy Kerrigan to “break a leg” on her “Dancing with the Stars” debut, an innocent tweet between friends that generated plenty of reaction.

“So excited for you @NancyAKerrigan ! Can’t wait to see you grace that ballroom floor, break a leg! #DWTS,” was posted on Yamaguchi’s account Monday morning.

It generated more than 6,000 likes, 3,000 retweets and 1,000 replies, many referencing the horrible attack on Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Championships (where Kerrigan’s knee was bruised, but not broken).

The tweet conjured memories of T-shirts sold leading up to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics with the words “Harding-Kerrigan” on the front and “Norway ’94, Break a Leg!!!” on the back, reported by major media 23 years ago.

Yamaguchi and Kerrigan shared world championships and Olympic podiums in 1991 and 1992 (Yamaguchi winning both times; Kerrigan with bronze).

They remain friends. Kerrigan said she spoke with Yamaguchi, a past “Dancing with the Stars” winner, about the experience, according to TeamUSA.org.

“I said to Kristi, ‘You’ve seen me at shows, Kris, how demanding is it?’” Kerrigan said, according to the report. “She said it’s very demanding, but you have to do it. She’s like, ‘You’ve been through worse, you have to do it, it’s such a great experience.’”

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VIDEO: Nancy Kerrigan’s first ‘Dancing with the Stars’ waltz

Pressure on Ashley Wagner at world championships

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Ashley Wagner‘s four-year plan has her peaking in 2018, not at the 2017 World Championships, but many call Wagner to carry the U.S. women at worlds in Helsinki next week.

“Next year is the year that I am, like, in it to kill,” she said. “This year is maintaining. This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year.”

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, is the only skater of three American women on this year’s worlds team with prior worlds experience. She is the only one ranked higher than 20th in the world this season.

Normally, figure skating is an individual sport. But next week, the top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no greater than 13 (Wagner places third, and either U.S. champion Karen Chen or U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell places 10th or better, for example).

If not, the U.S. will have two rather than the maximum three women’s entries at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. had three spots at four of the last five Olympics.

Anything less than three in 2018 would mean the U.S. is not keeping up with world power Russia and maybe even Canada and Japan. And it becomes that much harder for Wagner and everyone else to make the Olympic team.

“I know that I have a huge role in these three spots at these world championships,” Wagner said. “I need to set this team up as good as I possibly can, so that way the pressure’s off the other girls.”

The others are the 17-year-old Chen, the surprise winner at the U.S. Championships in January, who then placed 12th at February’s Four Continents Championships, an event that doesn’t include Europeans. Chen said she suffered from nerves, a flu and foot pain caused by broken boots at Four Continents.

And Bell, who took silver at October’s Skate America behind training partner Wagner. Bell, 20, finished sixth at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, where she competed with an amount of pressure she had never before felt.

Of skaters entered at worlds, Bell has the 10th-best total score this season. The skater with the 12th-best total in the worlds field is more than nine points shy of Bell. Chen comes in seeded 16th.

“The tough thing about this worlds is that we have two rookies going into a very stressful event,” Wagner said. “So these two girls are in a really tough position, and I really feel for them. It’s kind of like you have to buckle up and deal with this, and that’s like your only option.”

There is reason for optimism, should Wagner put up something close to the performance of her life from last year’s worlds, where she became the first U.S. women’s medalist in a decade.

“Success in Finland is getting onto that podium,” Wagner said.

But Wagner is nearing the end of her (so far) least impressive season in probably six years. She is seeded eighth at worlds by this season’s top international scores.

She failed to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2011. She was beaten at nationals despite longtime rival Gracie Gold underperforming.

However, Wagner’s goal at nationals wasn’t to win, but to finish in the top three to make the worlds team. She called the runner-up result “perfect.” She focused the last two months on firming up the areas where she lost points.

“Even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me,” Wagner said. “I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

The favorite in Helsinki is clearly Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost since November 2015 and can become the first repeat world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

Wagner said she hasn’t watched any of Medvedeva’s programs this season.

“The only thing that I know about is her long program music is not my favorite piece of music,” Wagner said, alluding to Medvedeva’s choice of sound from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a 2011 film relating to the 9/11 attacks. The music includes, at one point, the voice of George W. Bush declaring that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

But Wagner was effusive of Medvedeva, the latest in a string of Russian Olympic and world champions dating to the Sochi Olympics.

“She is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said. “Now it’s one set thing I know exactly the quality of skating I have to reach, I know exactly the technical program that I have to be able to accomplish.”

Wagner, a seasoned 25 years old, noted a key point this week. She is the only active women’s skater in her class, with her length of experience, who hasn’t taken a break.

Italian Carolina Kostner is 30, but she’s competing at worlds for the first time since 2014, following two seasons off. Japan’s three-time world champion Mao Asada is 26, but she took a season off after Sochi and this year failed to make the worlds team.

Wagner reflected on her world silver medal and her three national championships. She knows they mean nothing next week.

“I have to prove myself all over again,” she said.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.