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

Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened