Lindsey Vonn becomes oldest female World Alpine Skiing Champs medalist

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Frustration was evident in Lindsey Vonn when she finished her downhill run at the world championships on Sunday, nearly a half-second behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec.

Ninety minutes later, she said her bronze medal felt like gold.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a medal at worlds, but it was certainly not the color she planned. Austrian Stephanie Venier took silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, four tenths behind the pre-race favorite Stuhec. Vonn was .45 back.

“Not bad for an old lady,” Vonn joked.

Full results are here. NBC will air coverage Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s been a difficult season,” Vonn said on Eurosport about 45 minutes after her run, before watching the men’s downhill with Roger Federer in the stands. “I’m very thankful for a medal. Now I have a medal in downhill [at worlds] in every color, pretty damn cool. … All things considered, it was a really great performance.”

There is a lot to consider.

Vonn’s return from major injuries to make the podium (and win on the World Cup) at age 32 is the latest impressive feat in her career, the greatest in women’s Alpine history.

Vonn came to St. Moritz unable to put her hair in a ponytail with her injured right hand, a lingering immobility after breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Vonn, who also suffered three knee fractures in a Feb. 27 race crash, called the arm injury the most painful of her career.

She skied out of the opening super-G on Tuesday, struggling to hold onto her right ski pole with that hand. She then taped her glove to her pole for the super combined on Friday, when she finished fifth (but was a disappointing sixth after the downhill portion).

Vonn’s bronze on Sunday meant she repeated her results from the 2015 Worlds at home in Vail, Colorado (albeit mismatching the placements and races). Two years ago, she tearfully said she “didn’t live up to expectations.”

There were no tears in the TV interview Sunday. She played into the joke when 2000 Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards called her “the most matured” women’s medalist in worlds history.

“Yes, I am old,” she said after a laugh. “Actually, it’s a fun position to be in. A lot of these girls, they’re babies. It’s cool. A lot of them look to me for advice. Being a veteran, it’s not that bad. I know what I’m doing.”

Vonn’s medal is the first for the U.S. at these worlds. So far it has been the worst performance for the American team at worlds since 1999, when they went medal-less as host in Vail. It is a reminder of the lack of young talent besides World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin, who starts Thursday in the giant slalom and Saturday in the slalom in St. Moritz.

Bode Miller hasn’t raced in two years and may never again. He’s commentating for NBC in St. Moritz. Ted Ligety is out for the season due to back surgery after requiring knee surgery last year. Julia Mancuso was on the worlds team but will not race in St. Moritz, still not ready to come back from November 2015 hip surgery.

Miller, Ligety and Mancuso are all older than Vonn.

Vonn will reset her sights on the World Cup tour with two downhills left this season on March 4 and March 15. The biggest remaining goal of her career is to snatch the record for World Cup victories. She has 77. Only Swede Ingemar Stenmark has more with 86.

Vonn returned from the arm injury four weeks ago, and with little training, won her second race. However, her other four World Cup results were a ninth, 12th, 13th and a DNF.

“Nothing has been easy for me the last five years,” said Vonn, who missed the Sochi Olympics due to knee surgery. “No matter what obstacle I face, I feel like I can overcome it.”

With Vonn largely out, the 26-year-old Stuhec has been the phenom of the World Cup season, winning the first three downhills and tacking on super-G and super combined victories for good measure. Her ski technician is her mom.

It took the 2007 and 2008 World junior champion 113 World Cup starts to notch her first podium this season. Now, Stuhec is unquestionably the world’s best downhiller. It’s on Vonn to reclaim that crown in one year in PyeongChang.

“My way here was not easy at all,” said Stuhec, who bowed and rested her arms on the podium before climbing onto the top step and then cried during her national anthem. “Now, I say to myself, I’m a world champion. It’s really something big.”

MORE: Alpine Worlds broadcast schedule

Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

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World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

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Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance | TV schedule

The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

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