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

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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