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

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.