Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin
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Five women to watch at World Alpine Skiing Championships

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Either Lindsey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin is expected to be in every individual event at the World Alpine Skiing Championships.

Vonn, back this season after knee and arm fractures, said she will race the super-G, super combined and downhill in the first week.

Shiffrin, the World Cup overall standings leader, is slated for the giant slalom and slalom the second week.

Vonn eyes her first world title since 2009, while Shiffrin could become the second woman to win three straight world slalom titles.

They’ll go up against an emerging field of international stars, plus established medalists skiing near home in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

The podium finishers this week will stamp themselves as Olympic contenders for PyeongChang 2018.

Here’s the schedule (all ET):

Tuesday, Feb. 7 — Super-G — 6 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Friday, Feb. 10 — Super Combined Downhill — 4 a.m. (Streaming)
Friday, Feb. 10 — Super Combined Slalom — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Sunday, Feb. 12 — Downhill — 6 a.m. (Streaming; NBC, 12:30 p.m.)
Thursday, Feb. 16 — Giant Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. (Streaming)
Thursday, Feb. 16 — Giant Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Saturday, Feb. 18 — Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. (Streaming)
Saturday, Feb. 18 — Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. (Streaming; NBC, 12:30 p.m.)

Full broadcast schedule | Five men to watch

Here are five skiers to watch:

Lindsey Vonn, USA
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: One wins in 5 races (all downhill and super-G)
2015 Worlds: Bronze in super-G, fifth in downhill, 14th in giant slalom, DNF in combined
2014 Olympics: Did not compete (injury)

Vonn has unfinished business at worlds and in St. Moritz. The last time worlds was in St. Moritz, in 2003, she was not on the U.S. team after straining a hip flexor two months earlier. At the last worlds in 2015, Vonn tearfully said she “didn’t live up to expectations” skiing at home in Colorado, taking one bronze medal.

Vonn goes into these worlds more of a doubt than two years ago. In the last year, she suffered three knee fractures in a Feb. 27 race crash and then the most painful injury of her career, breaking her right upper arm, in a Nov. 10 training crash. She returned three weeks ago, with little training, and won her second race. However, her other four results were a ninth, 12th, 13th and a DNF.

Mikaela Shiffrin, USA
Expected events: Giant Slalom, Slalom
2017 World Cup: Overall standings leader; six slalom wins and two giant slalom wins
2015 Worlds: Gold in slalom, eighth in giant slalom
2014 Olympics: Gold in slalom, fifth in giant slalom

Shiffrin is currently the world’s best female Alpine skier by virtue of her World Cup overall standings lead. Since repeating as world slalom champion in 2015, Shiffrin tacked on her first outright World Cup giant slalom victories and her first World Cup speed race starts. She won her last race, a parallel slalom, and finished fourth in her last speed race, a super-G, rolling into these worlds.

Shiffrin considered entering the super combined and super-G in St. Moritz but decided to focus all of her energy and training for the last two races of the event, the giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin could go double gold, given she ranks second in this season’s World Cup giant slalom standings. The last woman to win GS and slalom at one worlds was Italian Deborah Compagnoni in 1997.

Lara Gut, Switzerland
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: No. 2 in overall standings; wins in downhill, super-G and giant slalom
2015 Worlds: Bronze in downhill, seventh in super-G; DNF in giant slalom; fifth in combined
2014 Olympics: Bronze in downhill, fourth in super-G; ninth in giant slalom; DNF in combined

Gut has been the best all-around skier since the Sochi Olympics, fulfilling promise first shown at the 2009 World Championships, when she took downhill and super combined silver at age 17. Gut’s only medals at the last Olympics and Worlds came in downhill, but super-G is her strongest event. She’s the clear favorite at home on Tuesday, with three wins in four World Cup super-Gs this season.

Gut’s prep for worlds was not ideal, however. She crashed in her most recent race on Jan. 29, forcing her to miss an event last Tuesday and said on social media that she “got ready for world champs taking care of my leg.”

Ilka Stuhec, Slovenia
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: No. 4 in overall standings; wins in downhill, super-G and super combined
2015 Worlds: 20th in downhill, 17th in super-G, 25th in giant slalom, seventh in combined
2014 Olympics: 10th in downhill, 13th in super-G, 31st in giant slalom, DNF in combined

The 26-year-old has been the phenom of the World Cup season, winning the first three downhills and tacking on super-G and super combined wins for good measure. It took the 2007 and 2008 World junior champion 113 World Cup starts to notch her first podium this season. She figures to battle Vonn and Gut for the super-G and downhill crowns in St. Moritz.

Anna Veith, Austria
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: Seven podiums in 14 races; second in overall standings
2015 Worlds: Gold in super-G and giant slalom; silver in downhill; fourth in combined
2014 Olympics: Gold in super-G; silver in giant slalom; eighth in super combined; DNF in downhill

Veith had a drawn-out comeback from tearing the ACL and patellar tendon in her right knee in an Oct. 21, 2015 crash. She missed all of the 2015-16 campaign and has been slow to return to form this season. Her best finish was 19th in her first six races, but then Veith placed third in the last super-G before worlds. When on her game in 2014 and 2015, Veith was the world’s best overall skier.

MORE: Vonn develops friendship with young skier battling cancer

Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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MORE: Dawn Staley to coach U.S. women at Tokyo 2020

Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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