Ingemar Stenmark, Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn meets Ingemar Stenmark (video)

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Only one skier has more World Cup wins than Lindsey Vonn, and Vonn met him for the first time on Tuesday night.

Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark stood, surrounded by media, at the finish area of a World Cup parallel slalom race in Stockholm.

Stenmark won 86 World Cup races from 1974-89. Vonn is at 76 wins, with nine already this season, on pace to break Stenmark’s record before the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

“How’d you do it? How’d you get so many wins?” were Vonn’s first questions to Stenmark after a hug and pleasantries.

“You know that, you don’t have to ask me,” Stenmark responded, separated from Vonn by microphones. “I don’t have to chase records anymore.”

Vonn and Stenmark are vastly different skiers from vastly different eras. All of Stenmark’s wins were in slalom and giant slalom, and he spent much of his career before separate super-G races were added to the World Cup. He told Vonn he once raced a downhill, at the most famous, dangerous course in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Vonn, starstruck, then took a selfie with Stenmark.

Vonn’s best events are downhill and super-G. Her start Tuesday, eliminated in the first round of 16 in a head-to-head, bracketed format, marked her first in a slalom in more than three years. She doesn’t plan to again, partly because it hurts her surgically repaired right knee.

“When you beat my record, I will come,” said Stenmark, who does have knee surgery in common with Vonn. “When you are very close.”

“I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going to try,” Vonn said.

Earlier, Vonn sounded more confident.

“I have probably, hopefully two more seasons left, and I won nine [races] this season,” Vonn, who has a great chance to reach double-digit wins this campaign with four speed races left, said Tuesday, before the race. “I have 10 more [wins] to tie Stenmark. I think, if you’re looking at it mathematically, it looks pretty good, but anything can happen.”

Vonn is correct. In her comeback from two major knee surgeries, she’s been near her pre-injuries average wins per season — scoring eight last year and nine this year.

If the 31-year-old continues two more seasons, she will not only be on pace to break Stenmark’s record but also look to become the oldest Olympic women’s Alpine skiing medalist of all time.

Vonn, who didn’t fully commit to racing the slalom until Tuesday, didn’t enter to win so much as to accumulate World Cup points.

“Just for participating you get 15 points,” Vonn said. “I think that was what drew me to come up here.”

The 15 points could be crucial for Vonn, who is in a tight battle with Swiss Lara Gut for the World Cup overall title, the sport’s biggest prize this season with no Olympics or World Championships.

Vonn, a four-time World Cup overall champion (last in 2012), leads Gut by 23 points with 10 scheduled races left. Gut was also eliminated in the first round Tuesday.

Vonn and Gut next head to Andorra for a World Cup super-G and super combined on Saturday and Sunday.

VIDEO: Vonn reminded of Facebook gaffe at super-G finish

 

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.