Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn plans on 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics

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Lindsey Vonn intends to race for at least another four years, though not starting up again until the beginning of the next World Cup season in October at the earliest as she recovers from major knee surgery.

“After making the decision not to compete in Sochi, I have actually committed myself to racing through to the next Olympics,” Vonn said on “TODAY” while sitting encumbered by a large right knee brace in Pensacola Beach, Fla., on Tuesday morning. “I’m very motivated. I have a lot that I want to accomplish still. I want to take my time. I felt a little bit rushed last time trying to be back and ready for Sochi.”

Vonn, who had surgery almost two weeks ago, said the operation was less complicated than her surgery after blowing out her right knee at the World Championships last February.

No MCL work had to be done this time, but the ACL had to be reconstructed again and there was significant meniscus damage.

“I feel OK,” Vonn said with her adopted dog, Leo, draped over her lap. “I guess I’ve been through this now once before. So I kind of know the drill, unfortunately.”

What motivates Vonn? What does she still have to accomplish?

She previously made her goals clear in the four years between Sochi and Pyeongchang — to break records. She’s especially targeting success at next year’s World Championships near her hometown in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colo.

Vonn has 59 career World Cup wins. She is second all-time among women behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who had 62, and has long been thought to eventually break it, even with her major knee injuries.

The long-term goal is the men’s record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 races.

“I’ve already been thinking about that [men’s record],” she said in a December Q&A published by Red Bulletin.

Vonn averaged 10 victories per season from 2009 through 2012. If she gets back on that pace and stays healthy, she would need to ski well into the 2016-17 World Cup season to pass Stenmark around age 32.

“Records are the only thing that remain of an athlete, the only thing that people will remember,” Vonn told Red Bulletin. “If I want to ensure that people don’t forget me, I can only stop once I’ve set the bar as high as possible for anyone coming after me. That means that as long as I can keep winning I’ll keep skiing. Essentially it’s about what I leave behind, and that means statistics, records.”

She will be 33 years old when the Olympics come to Pyeongchang, South Korea. If she competes there and wins a medal, she will be the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.

Vonn’s role for Sochi with NBC, which she called a new challenge, will include reporting live from Studio 1A in New York City for “TODAY” in the days leading up to the Opening Ceremony.

She will also cover how Olympians prepare physically and mentality for the Olympics as well as share her favorite memories.

“It’s going to be so hard,” Vonn said of watching the Olympics rather than competing for the first time since 1998. “It’s already hard enough. You guys run commercials about Sochi every two minutes, and it’s killing me. … It’s going to be really, really hard to watch the Alpine events.”

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Curling siblings secure mixed doubles Olympic quota spot for U.S.

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The United States will be represented when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, thanks, in part, to the performance of siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton at the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

Although the Hamiltons finished well off the podium in 10th, their work, coupled with a third place finish at the 2016 World Championships by Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, is all the U.S. needed to lock in an Olympic spot for 2018. The bronze won by Polo and Peterson in 2016 was the first time the United States had won a world championship medal in mixed doubles curling, according to TeamUSA.org.

The Hamiltons opened the 2017 World Championships with a perfect 7-0 record through pool play, but a 6-5 loss to Finland in a match that needed extra ends took them out of contention for a medal. Wins against Hungary and Italy moved them into position to get the necessary points to land the Olympic quota spot. In their final match at the 2017 Worlds the Hamiltons fell to Russia, 5-7.

At the top of the 2017 World Championship final standings, Switzerland won the gold, Canada took silver and China left with bronze.

The eight mixed doubles team field set to compete in PyeongChang includes China, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, United States, Norway, Finland and hosts Korea. Curling begins in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, one day ahead of the Opening Ceremony, with competition lasting throughout the entire span of the Olympic Games.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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