Lately, Lindsey Vonn is crashing more than she’s winning

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Lately, Lindsey Vonn is crashing more than she’s winning.

The most successful female ski racer of all time fell and hit the safety netting during a World Cup downhill Saturday in exactly the same spot where she crashed a day earlier in an official training session.

“I’m getting a little sore. I’m too old to be hitting the fence that hard,” said the 32-year-old Vonn, who was again fortunate to walk away without any serious injuries. “I’m happy to still be in one piece.”

It’s not like Vonn to fall two days in a row – and nearly unheard of for her to fall two days in a row in the same spot.

“It’s unusual,” U.S head coach Paul Kristofic said, adding that Vonn is still regaining her timing after an injury layoff. “But she’s pushing hard. She wants to win the race and she knows she has the speed to do it and she’s taking some risks. When you’re pushing, sometimes things can go wrong and there’s also the element that (she) hasn’t had a lot of time on long skis at high speed.”

Defending overall champion Lara Gut of Switzerland won her first downhill of the season, finishing 0.05 seconds ahead of Sofia Goggia of Italy and 0.47 in front of Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

Having won a downhill last weekend in just her second race back from nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries, Vonn was expecting to add to her record total of 11 wins in Cortina.

Vonn’s boyfriend, football coach Kenan Smith, was attending his first ski race in Europe.

Two years ago, Vonn broke Annemarie Moser Proell‘s circuit-wide record of 62 wins in Cortina, and the Italian resort is also where Vonn earned her first podium result 13 years ago.

But Vonn hasn’t been able to negotiate a tricky jump and left turn that takes skiers from bright sunshine to dark shade on the upper section of the Olympia delle Tofane course.

“I felt like I was going pretty fast so I slowed myself down,” Vonn said. “When I landed, there was a little bit of a bump and my outside ski caught. I did the splits and went straight into the fence.”

It was only Vonn’s fourth race back since fracturing her left knee in a super-G crash in Andorra last February. The American was planning to return in November but then broke her upper right arm in a training crash at Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Vonn called her return from the nerve damage in her arm the “hardest recovery of my career,” revealing that she couldn’t even move her fingers soon after surgery.

Vonn also missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics after tearing up her knee in a crash at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, Austria.

In between the crashes, however, Vonn has built up her win total to 77 – well within striking distance of Ingemar Stenmark‘s men’s record of 86.

“She doesn’t have a lot of fear – or any fear, really,” Kristofic said. “Her focus is to go out there and to try to beat everybody and ski to the maximum of what she’s able to and at times things do go wrong when that happens. But that’s a risk she’s willing to take.”

Collecting herself after her latest crash, Vonn skied down to the finish area. She had already had a small bobble earlier in her run but was 0.18 ahead of Gut at the first checkpoint just before her crash.

“That’s a point where you simply need the right timing,” Gut said. “If you jump a little too much to the right or to the left it becomes difficult. You go into the darkness for a moment.

“The important thing is that she’s OK,” Gut added.

Vonn was still planning to race a super-G on Sunday as she prepares for the upcoming world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

“I’m OK. I’m a little sore but hopefully I’ll be fine for tomorrow,” Vonn said. “It just wasn’t my day today, or yesterday for that matter, but that’s ski racing.”

Gut, meanwhile, is rounding into top form just before the home-snow worlds.

The victory reduced Gut’s deficit in the overall standings behind American leader Mikaela Shiffrin to 30 points.

Goggia had the Italian crowd going wild before Gut came down and silenced the fans with a perfect performance on the lower section, which is full of curves.

As usual, the Cortina course was bathed in sunshine and skiers hit speeds of 120 kph (75 mph) in the Tofane schuss, a narrow chute between two walls of rock.

“There’s not a place in world where the slope is so (well) prepared,” Gut said. “I wish we had more places like Cortina. It’s just cool.”

 

Ghana Olympic skeleton slider’s helmet: rabbit escapes lion

Ron Leblanc
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It’s called The Rabbit Theory.

That’s what Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana’s first Olympic skeleton slider, calls his new helmet.

The one that he will wear in PyeongChang as the second athlete from his nation to compete at a Winter Games.

Frimpong, 31, tells an incredible story.

He said he was raised by his grandmother Minka in a one-room home with nine other children before joining his mom in the Netherlands at age 8 as an illegal immigrant and eventually moving to Utah.

Frimpong’s full story is here.

Frimpong’s life — before he converted from sprinting to bobsled to skeleton — was chronicled in a 2010 Dutch documentary tilted “Theorie van het Konjin” (translation: The Rabbit Theory).

“My former sprint coach Sammy Monsels talks about the analogy of a rabbit in a cage, ready to escape from a lion,” Frimpong said in an email Monday. “I am that rabbit, and I have escaped the lions [of my past]. I am no longer being eaten by all the things around my life.”

The helmet that he will wear sliding head-first down an icy chute in South Korea in three weeks draws attention to it.

The design is of a lion’s head with mouth agape and a pair of rabbits coming out. Plus the colors of the Ghanaian flag.

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MORE: Jamaica qualifies first Olympic women’s bobsled team

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USA Gymnastics leaders resign as more victims speak

USA Gymnastics
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — USA Gymnastics announced the resignations of three key leaders Monday while more women and girls told a judge about being sexually assaulted at the hands of a sports doctor who spent years with Olympic gymnasts and other female athletes.

The resignations of chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley were announced in Indianapolis while a judge in Lansing heard a fifth day of statements from women and girls who said they were molested by Larry Nassar.

“We support their decisions to resign at this time,” said Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, which is the national governing body for gymnastics. “We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization.”

The board positions are volunteer and unpaid, but the resignations add to the months of turmoil. Steve Penny quit as president last March after critics said USA Gymnastics failed to protect gymnasts from abusive coaches and Nassar.

“New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement Monday. “USA Gymnastics needs to focus on supporting the brave survivors.”

USA Gymnastics last week said it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the Huntsville, Texas, home of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela. Some Olympians said they were assaulted there by Nassar.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Nassar’s sentencing hearing continued Monday, raising the number of girls and women who have spoken to nearly 100 since last week.

“I want to you know that your face and the face of all of the sister survivor warriors — the whole army of you — I’ve heard your words,” Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after a woman spoke in her Michigan courtroom. “Your sister survivors and you are going through incomprehensible lengths, emotions and soul-searching to put your words together, to publicly stop (the) defendant, to publicly stop predators, to make people listen.”

Nassar, 54, has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.

Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.

“Larry, how many of us are there? Do you even know?” asked Clasina Syrboby, as she fought back tears while speaking for more than 20 minutes Monday. “You preyed on me, on us. You saw a way to take advantage of your position — the almighty and trusted gymnastics doctor. Shame on you Larry. Shame on you.

She and other victims also continued their criticism of Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar when initial complaints were made.

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MORE: Watch, read Aly Raisman’s full testimony