Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn hopes to return in December

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Lindsey Vonn doesn’t expect to return to ski racing until December, a little over a month after the World Cup season starts, citing “slow going” rehab from her latest knee surgery.

Vonn told The Associated Press on Saturday there was ”quite a bit of meniscus damage” after January surgery on the right knee she blew out at the 2013 World Championships last February and re-aggravated in November and December. That caused her to push back her time frame.

She said she hopes to be back on snow in October and skiing at World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December. The delay is not too impactful, given the World Cup season doesn’t start until Oct. 25 and there are no speed races — Vonn’s best events — until Lake Louise on Dec. 5 (full schedule here).

Vonn also said she probably would have retired after the 2014-15 season had she not missed the Olympics.

“If I had raced in Sochi, that probably would have been the case,” Vonn said, according to the Denver Post. “Having not raced in Sochi, that totally changed everything. Barring anything [bad] happening, I’m committed to another four years. Even if I do well next year at the World Championships, I want to be able to have an opportunity to ‘defend’ my [2010 Olympic downhill] gold medal.”

Vonn, 29, spoke with the AP and the newspaper recently after the conclusion of the World Cup season, a circuit she last competed on Dec. 21.

Vonn conceded her bid to return for Sochi on Jan. 7, underwent another knee surgery one week later and worked for NBC during the Sochi Olympics rather than compete in Russia.

Vonn said she refused to watch the Olympic downhill and super-G, events she won gold and bronze in four years ago.

Outside of the World Cup, she’s focused on returning for the 2015 World Championships near her home in Vail, Colo., and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Vonn would be 33 years old at the next Winter Games. If she competes in Pyeongchang and wins a medal, she will be the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.

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 women’s Alpine skiing scene will be different when Vonn returns. Her longtime friendly rival, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, has retired. Slovenian Tina Maze‘s races are numbered as she has said she won’t be around for the 2018 Olympics.

The new all-around star is Austrian Anna Fenninger, who won gold and silver in Sochi and finished the season on a tear to win her first World Cup overall title.

Fenninger is 24. U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin just turned 19 and is expected to add super-G to her plate next season. Shiffrin is the Olympic, World and World Cup champion in slalom and has become a podium threat in giant slalom.

Those young forces will be the types of racers Vonn will have to fend off if she’s to return to the top of the sport, and stay there.

Shiffrin already training for next season

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross win World Series of Beach Volleyball

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Rio bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross bounced back from an Olympic upset to win the biggest annual tournament in the U.S. on Sunday.

Walsh Jennings and Ross captured the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball title in Long Beach, Calif., for the second time in three years. They beat Spanish pair Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo 21-16, 21-16 in the final.

Absent from Long Beach were Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and silver medalists Ágatha and Bárbara of Brazil.

Walsh Jennings and Ross, who lost to Ágatha and Bárbara in the Olympic semifinals, dropped a total of two sets in seven undefeated matches this past week.

They earned their fifth international title of the year after winning none in 2015, last season shortened by Walsh Jennings’ fifth right shoulder surgery.

Later, the top U.S. men’s pair of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were scheduled to play Brazilians Pedro and Evandro in the men’s final in Long Beach.

The beach volleyball season continues with the FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto in two weeks.

MORE: Tough for Misty May-Treanor to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings in Rio

Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Monica Puig
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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

MORE: U.S. goes one-two in Olympic mixed doubles