Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn says she’s ready for Sochi after best comeback result (video)

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Lindsey Vonn improved for the second straight day in her first races in 10 months.

The Olympic downhill champion placed fifth in a World Cup super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Sunday. Vonn skied the course in 1 minute, 23.71 seconds. Winner Lara Gut of Switzerland was .85 of a second faster.

Vonn, in her first races since blowing out her right knee at the World Championships in February, finished 40th and 11th in downhills Friday and Saturday.

“I know I can win again,” Vonn told reporters after finishing Sunday. “I’m ready for Sochi.”

She was skiing at a course nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” for her overwhelming success there. She had won the last seven World Cup races at Lake Louise before this weekend. She didn’t finish lower than second at a Lake Louise race from 2009 through 2012.

“Huge step in the right direction,” Vonn said, according to USA Today. “A perfect way to end the weekend. I have a lot of self confidence now. Every day I got more and more aggressive, more confident and I feel great.”

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with a super-G on Saturday and a giant slalom Sunday. It has not been reported if Vonn will race in St. Moritz.

Vonn said she may do as little as one more race before Sochi to avoid risking long-term damage on her knee, which she reinjured in a Nov. 19 training crash. She’s skiing on a partially torn ACL and needs offseason surgery.

“I do need a couple more stops,” Vonn said, according to USA Today. “I want to make sure I at least get on the podium once, if not win before going into Sochi. For me mentally I really want to have that in my back pocket.”

Gut won for the fourth time in eight races this season. She’s won both World Cup super-Gs and is the overall World Cup leader.

Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather was second for the second straight day, .03 behind Gut. Austrian Anna Fenninger was third.

German Maria Hoefl-Riesch was attempting to sweep the Lake Louise races after downhill wins Friday and Saturday but tumbled to 19th.

American Leanne Smith took sixth, her first top 10 of the season. Julia Mancuso, the reigning world bronze medalist in the super-G, was 17th, her first top 20 in seven races this season.

Lake Louise super-G
1. Lara Gut (SUI) 1:22.86
2. Tina Weirather (LIE) 1:22.89
3. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:23.19
4. Elisabeth Goergl (AUT) 1:23.64
5. Lindsey Vonn (USA) 1:23.71
6. Leanne Smith (USA) 1:23.75
7. Kajsa Kling (SWE) 1:23.87
7. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) 1:23.87
9. Verena Stuffer (ITA) 1:23.97
10. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 1:24.08
17. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:24.53
18. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:24.55
32. Julia Ford (USA) 1:25.38
35. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) 1:25.48
41. Laurenne Ross (USA) 1:25.76

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Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

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Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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