Second crash for Lindsey Vonn in two days (video)

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Defending overall World Cup champion Lara Gut won her first downhill of the season Saturday, while Lindsey Vonn crashed for the second consecutive day.

Gut finished 0.05 seconds ahead of Sofia Goggia of Italy and 0.47 seconds in front of Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

The Swiss skier was competing in the final downhill before her home world championships in St. Moritz.

“There’s no better way to enter Worlds,” Gut said.

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

Vonn lost control and slammed into the safety netting in the same spot where she crashed in Friday’s training run.

“I’m OK. I’m a little sore, but hopefully I’ll be fine for tomorrow,” the American said. “I just caught my edge, that’s all.”

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

Vonn had asked the International Ski Federation’s race director to smooth out a small lip that gave her trouble in training.

“They changed it, but I still caught air,” Vonn said. “I just caught my edge and did the splits. It happens, unfortunately.”

Vonn, who has won a record 11 races in Cortina, returned earlier this month from nearly a year out with injuries.

Ramona Siebenhofer of Austria, Nicol Delago of Italy and Valerie Grenier of Canada also fell.

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

“I didn’t have a really fast start, but from the middle of the slope, it was getting better and better, and I had more confidence in my skis and [was] really able to finish well,” said Gut, who trailed Goggia at each checkpoint. “It’s better to have the green light at the finish than just at the intervals.”

It was the 23rd win of Gut’s World Cup career and her first downhill victory in Cortina — which is considered the premier stop on the women’s circuit.

As usual, the Olympia delle Tofane course was bathed in sunshine, and skiers hit speeds of 75 mph in the Tofane schuss, a narrow chute between two walls of rock.

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

It was the eighth podium result this season for Goggia, who is still seeking her first victory. She needs one more podium to match the Italian women’s team record of nine set by Deborah Compagnoni in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Stuhec, who won the opening three downhills of the season, retained a 77-point lead ahead of Gut in the downhill standings.

Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany finished fourth, and Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria was fifth.

Breezy Johnson was the top American in a career-best 10th, and teammate Stacey Cook finished 11th.

Julia Mancuso did not enter the race, preferring to delay her return from hip surgery to Sunday’s super-G.

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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