Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud’s celebrates ‘unreal’ comeback

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – This Alpine skier suffered a torn ACL at the World Championships super-G last February.

This skier underwent surgery, rehabbed and returned to skiing on snow in August.

This skier came back to World Cup racing in Lake Louise, Alberta, and posted improving results in December.

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That’s where Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud’s story splits from that of American Lindsey Vonn.

Jansrud placed fourth in the Olympic super combined Friday, five days after winning a bronze medal in the downhill.

“It’s almost unreal being one year away from an ACL injury, and get to hold a medal in my hand,” he told The Associated Press after the downhill.

Vonn can’t describe that feeling.

To be fair, there are more differences between the two skiers.

Most importantly, Jansrud suffered a comparatively simple left ACL tear when he lost his balance, spun and fell to the snow in Schladming, Austria, on Feb. 6, 2013.

The day before, Vonn tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee and had a lateral tibial plateau fracture.

“Her injury was worse,” said Aksel Lund Svindal, another Norwegian Alpine skier. “He tore his ACL, but it was super clean. Everything else was OK. Lindsey’s, that was worse. That was way worse.”

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The early worry for Vonn was that she would miss the Olympics. Though Vonn admirably worked her way back into top-five form, she suffered a setback racing Dec. 21 and ended her season, needing another knee surgery.

The noted Liverpool supporter Jansrud never lost sight of Sochi, even in the seconds after falling down in Schladming.

“I knew I was out of the World Champs and out of the season,” Jansrud said. “The goal was always being back at the Olympics. I never doubted that at all.”

On Friday, Jansrud led the super combined after the morning downhill portion. He is a better speed event skier and wasn’t expected to keep his lead after the afternoon slalom.

He finished .59 of a second behind the bronze medalist and matched his best career World Cup super combined finish.

His fourth place was impressive, not only as part of his comeback, but also because he again beat fellow Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, the world’s second-best all-around skier.

Norway has a proud Alpine tradition.

Jansrud, 28, may be taking his turn in the spotlight at these Games, a spot passed from legends Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus to the triple 2010 medalist Svindal, who is 31.

Svindal, a disappointing fourth and eighth in Sochi so far, isn’t surprised that Jansrud is performing so well.

“I’ve skied with him since August, and he’s been good,” Svindal said. “Our job as a team is not to question if he can come back and win races. Our job is to believe in that like it’s the most natural thing.”

Jansrud takes momentum into the super-G on Sunday and the giant slalom Wednesday.

His best event in the 2012 and 2013 seasons was the super-G, before he fell in the race in Schladming.

He won 2010 Olympic giant slalom silver, ahead of Svindal and American Ted Ligety, who is seen as the favorite for gold this year.

Ligety, too, is not surprised at Jansrud’s quick recovery.

“ACL surgery in ski racing is a dime a dozen,” said Ligety, who suffered MCL and PCL damage in 2009. “Every single guy basically out there does that and comes back eight months and is normally just as strong. He’s an awesome skier.”

Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson makes another Olympics

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Jamie Anderson will be headed to the 2018 Olympics to defend her gold medal, and she’s hoping to bring some big tricks with her.

By finishing in second place, best among U.S. slopestyle riders, at Dew Tour Breckenridge, Anderson has confirmed her nomination to the U.S. Olympic snowboard team for both slopestyle and big air.

The Breckenridge event served as the third of five selection events for the slopestyle and big air team.

On her second and third runs, Anderson attempted to up the ante by adding a cab double underflip — one of the most progressive tricks in women’s slopestyle snowboarding right now.

She washed out on both attempts but was able to finish on the podium based on the strength of her first run.

The cab double underflip is a new trick for Anderson this season. She learned it earlier this year and then landed it in a contest for the first time back in August.

It’s also a trick that U.S. teammate Julia Marino and Austria’s Anna Gasser had dialed in last season when they beat Anderson at several contests.

“When I was asked about double corks three years ago, I think I said there was no way in hell I ever want to do double corks,” Anderson said. “And then, with a lot of the other girls slowly getting their double corks together, I started to shift my mindset and realize that we also are capable of doing these tricks.”

MORE: Breckenridge women’s slopestyle results

So far, she’s only landed the trick a handful of times. And in the process of learning it, she’s endured some rough crashes that have upped the fear factor of the trick for her.

“I still feel pretty not-that-comfortable going upside-down twice, but it’s fun and it’s starting to click a little bit more,” she said.

Defending her slopestyle gold medal in PyeongChang will be no easy task for Anderson.

Gasser has been dominant over the last year thanks in part to her mastery of the cab double underflip, and Canada’s Spencer O’Brien has put her name in the mix as well after taking the victory in Breckenridge.

Anderson will also have a chance to compete in big air in PyeongChang, though her strongest results have historically come in slopestyle.

Hailey Langland (fourth place) and Marino (sixth place) finished second and third among Americans in Breckenridge.

Both will be expected to secure spots on the team at one of the next two selection events. A fourth spot on the team could be awarded at the discretion of the coaches.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through three of five events)
1. Red Gerard — 1,400*
2. Chris Corning — 1,200*
3. Chandler Hunt — 1,160*
4. Kyle Mack — 1,000*
5. Judd Henkes — 1000

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,600*
2. Hailey Langland — 1,600*
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,050
5. Ty Walker — 1,000
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

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Breckenridge Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday
Men’s Ski Halfpipe — 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Women’s Ski Halfpipe — 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 4:15-5 p.m.

Saturday
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 11-11:45 a.m.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 12:15-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Ski Slopestyle — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Ski Slopestyle — 4:15-5 p.m.

Lindsey Vonn wins 78th World Cup race (video)

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Lindsey Vonn‘s latest comeback victory, one that reinvigorated her Olympic medal hopes, came at the venue where her Olympic bid died four years ago.

Vonn overcame early season back and knee troubles to win her 78th World Cup race — and first in nearly 11 months — a super-G in Val d’Isere, France on Saturday. NBCSN will air coverage at 5 p.m. ET.

“I guess I’m not a washed-up old hag,” Vonn said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I think I proved myself, and karma definitely comes back around. I’ve got some good karma coming my way.”

She prevailed by .31 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia and .39 over Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel. Vonn has won World Cups here six times before, earning cows as prizes.

Vonn put in a scare, nearly skiing out at the bottom of the course, but let out her usual victory screams in the finish area and grabbed a TV camera, repeating, “Yes!”

Full Results

Vonn is now eight victories shy of the record she covets — retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 career World Cup wins. She has said she hopes to break the record by the end of next season, after which she may retire.

First, her Olympic return in PyeongChang, four years after missing Sochi. The final straw came at this French resort in December 2013, where Vonn skied out with MCL and joint damage on top of a previous ACL tear.

Vonn’s PyeongChang medal hopes rode a roller coaster the last year.

A broken arm in a Nov. 10, 2016 crash. A win in her second race back in January, plus podiums at the world championships and at the Olympic venue in February and March.

Then a crash and a fall in two of her first three speed races this season. And last Saturday’s back injury and the images of being helped to walk with supporting poles in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

She withdrew from Sunday’s race — which was eventually canceled due to weather — flew to Austria and received therapy.

“It was mentally challenging to overcome that and be able to trust myself and push myself, even though I’m maybe not moving as well as I normally do,” Vonn said, adding that her back loosened up Saturday after the first few gates. “That’s been the biggest thing the last few weeks is just keep going, keep fighting, keep trying, keep picking yourself back up.

“I knew that the results would come eventually, but the important thing was just to continue to be tough.”

Vonn’s dad was waiting for her in his first visit to Val d’Isere.

“It was really cute when he was crying in the finish,” she said.

There was reason to doubt Vonn at age 33, given her extensive injury history. Only one woman has won a World Cup race at a more advanced age — Austrian Elisabeth Goergl in 2014.

Now, she has two months to stay healthy before the Olympic speed races, where she is a medal favorite in the downhill and super-G.

“I’m back on track,” she said. “[This win] proves what I already knew, that my skiing is good.”

First up is another World Cup super-G in Val d’Isere on Sunday (4:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin is skipping this weekend’s races to prepare for upcoming slaloms and giant slaloms.

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MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule

Val d’Isere Super-G
1. Lindsey Vonn (USA) — 1:04.86
2. Sofia Goggia (ITA) — +.31
3. Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) — +.39
8. Laurenne Ross (USA) — +.97
22. Alice McKennis (USA) — +1.62
24. Alice Merryweather (USA) — +2.03
34. Stacey Cook (USA) — +2.63
38. Breezy Johnson (USA) — +2.86
45. Julia Mancuso (USA) — +5.56
DNF. Jackie Wiles (USA)