Lindsey Vonn, MIkaela Shiffrin
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Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin lead U.S. roster for World Alpine Skiing Champs

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Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin headline the U.S. team for the World Alpine Skiing Championships starting next week.

Julia Mancuso, a medalist at the last three Olympics who hasn’t raced since March 2015, is also on the 23-skier team headed to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for the Feb. 7-19 championships.

Vonn, who returned this month from knee and arm fractures, will eye her first world title since she swept the downhill and super-G in 2009. Vonn won her second race back Jan. 21 but hasn’t finished better than ninth in her other four starts. She’s expected to race downhill, super-G and super combined at worlds.

Shiffrin is the world’s best female skier, leading the World Cup overall standings, and will seek to become the second woman to win three straight world slalom titles. She’s also a threat in giant slalom, ranking second this season in that discipline. She doesn’t plan to race the other worlds events.

Mancuso was named to the worlds for an eighth straight time despite missing all of last season due to hip surgery. Mancuso took World Cup training runs this month but wasn’t quite ready to race. At worlds, race starters will be finalized the evening prior to each event.

The U.S. team lacks its two biggest male stars — Bode Miller and Ted Ligety.

Miller, the most decorated U.S. Olympic skier with six medals, has not raced since Feb. 5, 2015, when he severed a right hamstring tendon in a world championships super-G crash.

Miller is healthy now but hasn’t raced this season due at least in part to a sponsor dispute. He is expected to return to racing next season, eyeing his sixth Olympics at age 40. Miller will be on the NBC broadcast team during worlds.

Ligety, the three-time reigning world giant slalom champion, is out for the season after undergoing back surgery two weeks ago.

With Miller and Ligety’s absences, the U.S. will have zero past men’s Olympic or world gold medalists at a world championships for the first time since 2001.

That leaves a relatively inexperienced cast supporting Vonn and Shiffrin, looking to build on a five-medal U.S. output at the 2015 World Championships at home in Colorado.

The most accomplished U.S. men on the team are speed racers Travis Ganong and Andrew Weibrecht. Ganong, the 2015 World downhill silver medalist, won a World Cup downhill on Friday for his first victory since his maiden win in December 2014.

Weibrecht owns as many Olympic medals as Vonn (two) but has never won a World Cup race nor been better than ninth at worlds.

All of the above mentioned skiers (other than Shiffrin) are 28 years or older. The U.S. is lacking a pool of young talent. Jackie Wiles, 24, recorded her first World Cup podium on Jan. 15, finishing third in a downhill.

MORE: Vonn: Record more important than Olympic gold

U.S. roster for World Championships
Stacey Cook — Three-time Olympian
Breezy Johnson
Julia Mancuso — Four Olympic medals
Megan McJames — Two-time Olympian
Laurenne Ross — Sochi Olympian
Mikaela Shiffrin — Olympic slalom champion
Resi Stiegler — Two-time Olympian
Lindsey Vonn — 2010 Olympic downhill champion
Jackie Wiles — Sochi Olympian

Michael Ankeny
Bryce Bennett
Tommy Biesemeyer
David Chodounsky — Sochi Olympian
Ryan Cochran-Siegle
Mark Engel
Tommy Ford — Vancouver Olympian
Travis Ganong — 2015 World downhill silver medalist
AJ Ginnis
Jared Goldberg — Sochi Olympian
Tim Jitloff — Sochi Olympian
Robby Kelley
Brennan Rubie
Andrew Weibrecht — Two Olympic medals

Tues. Feb 7
6:00 a.m. – Women’s super G, NBCSN – LIVE

Wed. Feb 8
6:00 a.m. – Men’s super G, NBCSN – LIVE

Fri. Feb 10
7:00 a.m. – Women’s alpine combined, NBCSN – LIVE

Sat. Feb 11
6:00 a.m. – Men’s downhill, nbcsports.com – LIVE
2:30 p.m. – Men’s downhill, NBC

Sun. Feb 12
6:00 a.m. – Women’s downhill, nbcsports.com – LIVE
12:30 p.m. – Women’s downhill, NBC

Mon. Feb 13
7:00 a.m. – Men’s alpine combined, NBCSN – LIVE

Tues. Feb 14
6:00 a.m. – Nations team event, NBCSN – LIVE

Thurs. Feb 16
3:45 a.m. – Women’s giant slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Women’s giant slalom, NBCSN – LIVE

Fri. Feb 17
3:45 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom, NBCSN

Sat. Feb 18
3:45 a.m. – Women’s slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Women’s slalom, second run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
12:30 p.m. – Women’s slalom, NBC

Sunday, Feb. 19
3:45 a.m. – Men’s slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Men’s slalom, NBCSN

 

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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