Lindsey Vonn avoids serious injury in training crash

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — Lindsey Vonn avoided more serious injury when she fell and crashed into the safety netting during a World Cup downhill training session Friday.

The American, who returned this month from nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries, lost control after getting too much air at a tricky left turn on the upper portion of the Olympia delle Tofane course.

After pausing to collect herself, Vonn skied down to the finish area.

“I just caught a lot of air off this jump between the turns and I landed and hit another bump and just went in the fences in a little bit,” Vonn said. “But I’m fine.”

Vonn added that her right arm — the same one she broke in a training crash in Copper Mountain, Colorado, in November — “might be a little sore tomorrow.”

Vonn is slated to race in a downhill on Saturday (4:30 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app; 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) and a super-G on Sunday (5:30 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app; 5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Vonn holds the resort record of 11 wins in Cortina.

Italian veteran Elena Fanchini fell in the same spot, also without serious consequences.

Vonn was only 0.11 seconds behind then-leader Ilka Stuhec at the first interval, right before she went down as the course went from bright sunshine to shade.

“That’s not what makes it tricky,” Vonn said of the change of light. “It’s there’s a bit of a lip there and some people are catching a lot of air, some people are catching no air. I got like 20-25 meters (yards) and I just didn’t have enough time to land it and had to make the switch right away and there just wasn’t enough time before I hit the fence.”

Vonn discussed the terrain with International Ski Federation race director Jean-Philippe Vulliet.

“Tomorrow with race speeds I’m going to fly even farther, so I think they should just clean that up a little bit it should be perfect for the race,” the four-time overall World Cup champion said.

Verena Stuffer of Italy led the training session, 0.05 ahead of defending overall champion Lara Gut and 0.34 in front of Sofia Goggia.

Stuhec, who leads the downhill standings with three wins this season, was fourth.

Julia Mancuso, another American standout who is returning from hip surgery, struggled in 47th position, nearly 4 1/2 seconds behind Stuffer.

“It’s hard to get back in the middle of the season,” Mancuso said, adding that she’s still regaining strength in her right hip. “I still have a long way to go before I’m 100 percent strong and ready to compete for the top step of the podium. But you have to start somewhere.”

Mancuso has claimed one win and six second-place results in Cortina over her career. But she has not raced since March 2015.

“I think I’m ready for the super-G,” she said. “I’m going to talk to my coaches about (the downhill). The high speed is really demanding. I don’t want to compete until I’m actually ready to compete and be in there.”

For the U.S. team, this is the final weekend of qualifying for next month’s world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Unless the coaches select her based merely on experience — she has won nine medals at the Olympics and worlds — Mancuso needs a solid result this weekend to make the team.

“I hope that I can get a chance to improve and show that I’m ready to fight and be competitive with a little more training,” Mancuso said.

Vonn, meanwhile, is aiming to win after claiming a downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, last weekend in just her second race back.

“It’s been a while since I crashed in a downhill training run but I’m glad that it’s just training,” Vonn said. “I’ve had so much success on this hill I’m not really worried about not having a training run today. I know this hill, I know what to do and I have confidence now. I just need to do some therapy, reset and be ready for tomorrow.”

MORE: Shiffrin, seeking title, makes rare start with Vonn

Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance | TV schedule

Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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MORE: U.S. pairs skater back from life-threatening condition

Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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