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

John-Henry Krueger makes Olympics, four years after swine flu

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Four years ago, John-Henry Krueger spent Friday night and early Saturday morning at the Olympic Trials lying on an apartment bathroom floor, unable to keep food down due to swine flu.

Tonight, Krueger celebrates his first Olympic short track speed skating berth.

“The win today in spite of what happened four years ago just made the victory that much sweeter,” Krueger said on NBCSN.

He topped the 1500m at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, to become the first of five men to qualify for PyeongChang this weekend.

Krueger was second in the first of two 1500m races behind three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski.

Celski went into the second and final 1500m as the favorite but slipped and fell with a lap and a half left.

Krueger won the race and moved ahead of Celski in the overall standings for the one Olympic berth available.

Celski will have more chances Saturday and Sunday to get one of the last four Olympic men’s spots.

Vancouver Olympian Lana Gehring swept her 1500m races to become the first woman to make the PyeongChang team.

Gehring, 27, held off Jessica Kooreman by .113 of a second in the second 1500m final to clinch the spot. Kooreman was later disqualified.

Gehring failed to make the Sochi Olympic team, retired, unretired in late 2015 to try long-track speed skating, then switched back to short track this year.

In 2014, the U.S. won zero individual short track medals at an Olympics for just the second time since the sport debuted at Albertville 1992.

Celski and Kooreman came the closest to the podium, each picking up a fourth-place finish.

Individual medal prospects in the six events in PyeongChang are not great.

The U.S. bagged one individual World Cup medal this season in 24 total races — a bronze from Celski.

Krueger leads the program with five individual World Cup medals since Sochi, one coming in the last three years.

In 2013, he also won a World Cup medal and was a favorite to get to Sochi. But he came down with swine flu the week of trials.

He fought, even finishing second in a race on the final day, but didn’t have enough strength to make the Olympic team.

“All the lovely side effects that come with swine flu,” Krueger, who now lives and trains in the Netherlands, said earlier this fall. “I had all the classic symptoms of that.”

The best hope in PyeongChang may be the men’s relay, where the U.S. made the podium at the last three Olympics.

A U.S. quartet anchored by Celski and including Krueger broke the world record last month.

The four men who will join Krueger in PyeongChang will be decided the next two days in Utah.

The top finishers in the 500m (Saturday) and 1000m (Sunday) are guaranteed Olympic berths.

The U.S. women did not qualify an Olympic relay, but the 500m and 1000m winners will join Gehring in PyeongChang for individual races. If Gehring wins either distance, then a runner-up in one of the distances will qualify.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic short track skater gets 4-year doping ban

U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 6:45-8 p.m. 1500m rounds STREAM LINK
8:30-10 p.m. 1500m finals NBCSN | STREAM LINK
Saturday 12-1:45 p.m. 500m rounds STREAM LINK
2:30-4 p.m. 500m finals NBC | STREAM LINK
Sunday 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 1000m rounds STREAM LINK
1-3 p.m. 1000m finals NBC | STREAM LINK

Chloe Kim qualifies for U.S. Olympic snowboard team

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — In 2014, Chloe Kim ranked high enough to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in snowboard halfpipe, but she was too young to compete at the Winter Games.

Four years later, she’ll finally have the opportunity to represent the red, white and blue at the Olympics.

Kim won her second straight Olympic qualifier, which will secure her nomination to the U.S. halfpipe team. The 17-year-old, who is the only woman currently capable of landing back-to-back 1080s, is considered the gold medal favorite for PyeongChang 2018.

“It seems like a dream almost, and I’m trying to wake up,” Kim said of earning her spot on the Olympic team. “I think today when I get home, it’s going to sink in, and I’m probably going to cry.”

With the pressure of Olympic qualifying over with, Kim says that cleaning up her cab 1080s will be a primary focus as she prepares for PyeongChang.

Who will join Kim on the women’s halfpipe team remains up in the air, though Kelly Clark is in good shape after a third at the Copper Grand Prix and a second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, which hosted Friday’s qualifier.

The three-time Olympic medalist crashed on her first two runs in the final and needed to be checked out by the medical staff after hitting the deck on a frontside 1080 attempt on Run 2. With a bandage on her nose, she came back undeterred in Run 3, landed the frontside 1080 and got onto the podium.

“These are Olympic qualifying events, and me ending up in the middle of the pack isn’t really going to benefit me,” Clark said. “I have one shot, so I went for it.”

The men’s halfpipe competition produced a surprise winner in 19-year-old Jake Pates, who outdueled not just his own U.S. teammates but also a stacked field of international riders.

Pates came out firing on his third and final run, putting down a sequence of tricks that ended with a unique variation on the double McTwist 1260 made famous by Shaun White. Instead of doing a standard grab, Pates executed a tail grab on the trick that added extra difficulty and clearly caught the eye of the judges.

“That was a trick I’ve been wanting to do forever,” Pates said of the double McTwist, which he had never landed in a contest before. “Seriously, I saw that happen when I was, like, 8 years old. I saw that happen at X Games and it was crazy.”

According to Pates, it was just the fourth time he had ever landed the trick on snow.

With such a stacked group of riders on the U.S. team, Pates was mostly overlooked when it came to Olympic qualifying favorites. Now he’s suddenly in the discussion as a possible medal contender.

“I never thought in a million years I would have won this event today,” he said. “I just wanted to land that run, actually I’ve never done that before. I’ve been dreaming about that all week.”

Ben Ferguson, who was the top American at the first selection event, took a strong step toward making his first Olympic team as well by finishing third overall and second among Americans in Breckenridge. He and Pates will both be in position to potentially secure their spots on the team at the next qualifier.

“For every other American out there, there is another level of pressure we’ve got to deal with doing these [Olympic qualifiers],” Ferguson said afterward. “And for me, doing well in these last two has kind of pulled some of that pressure off and relieved a little bit of anxiety, and I can just focus on having fun more.”

Aside from helping to shape the U.S. Olympic team, the men’s halfpipe competition in Breckenridge also provided a showcase of international stars who will be in the mix for medals in PyeongChang.

Scotty James of Australia unveiled a new run which included back-to-back double cork 1260s and a switch backside 900. It was a very technical run which earned him a massive score and would have given him the victory were it not for Pates stepping it up at the very end.

Also standing out was Japan’s Ayumu Hirano. The Sochi silver medalist started his run off with a massive indy air before going into a difficult sequence of tricks that included a frontside double cork 1440 and frontside double cork 1260. He finished in fourth.

Absent from the men’s field was White, the two-time Olympic gold medalist. White was unable to put down a clean run amid snowy conditions during Thursday’s qualifying round and therefore failed to advance to the final.

Despite the disappointing result, White is still in good shape when it comes to Olympic qualifying. He was second among U.S. riders at the first selection event and still has two qualifying events left.

Up to three spots on the U.S. team for both men and women will be allocated through automatic qualification. In order to be eligible, riders need a top-three finish at one of the selection events. Each rider’s two best results will be used as a tiebreaker.

There are two selection events remaining for snowboard halfpipe, and they will both take place in January.

Olympic qualifying for snowboard and freeski slopestyle resumes Saturday in Breckenridge.

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MORE: Shaun White details crash that led to 62 stitches

Snowboard Halfpipe
Qualifying Standings 
(through two of four events)
1. Ben Ferguson — 1,800*
2. Jake Pates — 1,320*
3. Danny Davis — 1,200
4. Shaun White — 1,120*
5. Gabe Ferguson — 950
5. Chase Josey — 950

1. Chloe Kim — 2,000* (QUALIFIED)
2. Kelly Clark — 1,400*
3. Maddie Mastro — 1,300*
4. Arielle Gold — 1,100*
5. Elena Hight — 850
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

Breckenridge Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday
Men’s Ski Halfpipe — 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Women’s Ski Halfpipe — 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 4:15-5 p.m.

Saturday
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 11-11:45 a.m.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 12:15-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Ski Slopestyle — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Ski Slopestyle — 4:15-5 p.m.