Surprise winner as Lindsey Vonn skis out of world championships super-G

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Lindsey Vonn‘s first race of the world championships lasted about 40 seconds, as she nearly lost a ski pole, and ended with a DNF.

Vonn, showing she’s still recovering from breaking her right upper arm in November, struggled to hold onto her right ski pole early in her super-G run and skied off course, but didn’t crash, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

She was .02 behind Austrian winner Nicole Schmidhofer at her last split time before skiing out.

“I was definitely distracted for about five gates there, I couldn’t get my pole back,” Vonn said on NBCSN, adding that she’ll duct tape her hand to her pole for her final two races this week. “I didn’t know whether I should just drop it or keep trying to get it, but I kind of had a little bit of a grip on it.”

Schmidhofer was the surprise gold medalist by .33 over Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who both earned their first Olympic or world medals. Pre-race favorite Lara Gut of Switzerland took bronze, .36 behind.

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Vonn, who bagged super-G bronze at the 2010 Olympics and 2015 Worlds, isn’t 100 percent back from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. She called it the most painful injury of her career and said Sunday that her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail.

“I was attacking, and at world championships only a medal counts,” Vonn, who returned to race three weeks ago, said on NBCSN. “I’m still in a good mood, I’m still smiling, because I attacked.”

Vonn will next compete in the super combined on Friday, but her best medal shot is in the downhill on Sunday. Vonn said she’s had about four days of super-G training since September, with more recent experience in downhill in that time, including a World Cup win Jan. 21.

Austrian Anna Veith, the reigning Olympic and world super-G champion, also failed to finish Tuesday, skiing out about one minute into her run after being .17 back at her last split time. Veith is coming back from tearing the ACL and patellar tendon in her right knee in an Oct. 21, 2015 crash.

Winner Schmidhofer and silver medalist Weirather share a bit of history. At the 2007 World Junior Championships, they also went one-two in the super-G.

Both Schmidhofer and Weirather were at the Sochi Olympics, but neither raced.

Schmidhofer was passed over for Olympic downhill and super-G selections after training runs, as nations can enter no more than four racers per event and Austria’s team is very deep. Schmidhofer also made the Vancouver Olympic team and failed to finish her only race there. The 27-year-old has never won a World Cup race in 106 starts, but owns two podium finishes.

Weirather, the daughter of Olympic and world champion ski racers, crashed in a Sochi Olympic downhill training run, suffering a right knee injury that ended her season. She tore her right ACL three times but has somehow won six World Cup races.

Gut has won three of the four World Cup super-Gs this season, and is Switzerland’s biggest skiing star as the reigning World Cup overall champion. She came to worlds with five previous Olympic or world championships medals, but none of them gold. The super-G was her best shot, but she’s also a medal threat in the super combined, downhill and giant slalom.

“I couldn’t really ski the way I wanted,” Gut said. “I had a little bit of a fight on the slope.”

The World Championships continue with the men’s super-G on Wednesday (6 a.m. ET, NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app).

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French ice dancers win third world title; first medal for U.S. champs

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French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won their third world title, one month after an Olympic silver medal, while U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue earned their first world medal, a silver in Milan on Saturday.

Papadakis and Cizeron captured their third world title in four years by breaking world records in the short and free dances. The pre-event favorites totaled 207.20 points and prevailed by 10.56 over Hubbell and Donohue. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje grabbed bronze.

Papadakis and Cizeron’s score would have won the Olympics by 1.13 over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who skipped worlds and may never compete again. Papadakis’ dress came undone in their short dance in South Korea, exposing her breast, though they were just .14 off their personal-best short dance score at the time.

Hubbell and Donohue became the fourth different American couple to earn an Olympic or world medal in five seasons. It’s been a breakout year for the newest stars in the U.S.’ deepest figure skating discipline.

They won their first national title in January after placing third or fourth the previous six years and were fourth at their first Olympics, giving up a potential bronze with Donohue’s fall in the free dance. Donohue also fell in the 2017 Worlds free dance after they were third in the short.

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The world field lacked the Olympic gold and bronze medalists (Virtue and Moir and American siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani). Medalists often skip the post-Olympic world championships due to off-ice opportunities, exhaustion or retirement.

The second U.S. couple in Milan, two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates, were fifth after placing ninth at the Olympics, where they tangled skates and both fell in the free dance.

The third U.S. couple, 2014 World junior champions Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, improved from 15th after the short dance to finish 10th overall in their senior worlds debut.

The U.S. put three couples in the top 10 at worlds for the seventh time in eight seasons.

The 2018-19 figure skating season starts in earnest in October with Skate America in Everett, Wash.

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Nathan Chen wins world title by nearly 50 points after everyone falls


Nathan Chen has the gold. It just came one month later than he had hoped (and against a much less impressive field).

The 18-year-old won the world championships on Saturday, becoming the first U.S. male singles skater to do so since Evan Lysacek in 2009 and the youngest man from any nation since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2001.

It came one month after Chen entered the Olympics as one of the favorites and finished fifth.

“I felt the pressure, but I used what I learned from the Olympics and tried to bring it here,” Chen said, adding that he wouldn’t trade this title for an Olympic gold.

Chen landed six quadruple jumps in his free skate (five clean), extending a 1.86-point lead from the short program to win by 47.63 points. Chen tallied personal-best free skate and total scores (219.46, 321.40), becoming the second man to break 320 total points after double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

It’s the largest margin of victory in any event at an Olympics, worlds or Grand Prix Final under the 14-year-old points system.

Every other medal contender fell multiple times in the free skate. Chen, going last, said he was aware of that. Yet he still went all-out with six quads rather than the five he planned before going to Milan.

“That [the skaters’ falls] actually helped solidify my approach for six quads because it gave me an opportunity to make a mistake,” Chen said.

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan took silver despite three falls Saturday, reportedly skating through an ankle injury. Russian Mikhail Kolyada held on for bronze with two falls.

“I was not able to show my best,” Uno said, “but I did not give up until the end.”

American Vincent Zhou, third in the short program, also had three falls and ended up 14th. Jin Boyang, fourth in the short, fell five times and was 19th.

“I can’t even begin to describe how angry I am at myself for letting such an important FS [free skate] get away from me,” was tweeted from Zhou’s account, adding that he injured his back before leaving for Milan. “I’ve trained clean longs with 5 & 6 quads and I am so capable of being among the best.”

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Chen ended a season with six wins in seven events. That loss was costly, a fifth-place finish at the Olympics with that disastrous 17th-place short program.

But Chen rebounded not only in the Olympic free skate (highest score by nearly nine points) but also in Milan this week. Chen said he learned from PyeongChang to stop being “hell-bent” focused on gold.

His chances were no doubt boosted this week by the absences of Olympic gold and bronze medalists Hanyu and Javier Fernandez. Many medalists skip the worlds that are held one month after the Olympics due to exhaustion, off-ice opportunities or retirement.

This field lacked any prior Olympic or world champions for the first time since 1985.

Chen said before worlds he plans to continue competing next season, even though he may enroll in college. He will still work under Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutyunyan.

The third American, Max Aaron, finished 11th, landing one quad in his free skate, putting his hand down on a quad Salchow. Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, reportedly said it may have been his final competition.

Worlds conclude later Saturday with the free dance.

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