Ingemar Stenmark to Lindsey Vonn: ‘Don’t beat my record too early’

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Lindsey Vonn‘s top priority for the remainder of her career is to break the World Cup wins record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark. She is at 77 victories, nine shy of the record.

Stenmark’s goal? To hold onto the record a little bit longer.

“Keep on winning, but don’t beat my record too early,” Stenmark, in an NBCSN interview at the world championships on Tuesday, said he told Vonn on Monday. “She can beat it, but not this year. Maybe next year.”

Stenmark won his 86 World Cup races between 1974 and 1989, with 46 in giant slalom and 40 in slalom. He has said he raced one downhill — the most daunting course in Kitzbuehel, Austria — and minimal super-Gs. The super-G was not run on the World Cup until a little more than halfway into his career.

Stenmark made 231 World Cup starts, according to the International Ski Federation, and raced for the last time just before his 33rd birthday. Vonn is already at 371 starts, nearing the women’s record of 408 held by retired Austrian Renate Goetschl. Vonn turns 33 on Oct. 18.

Vonn and Stenmark first met last Feb. 23 at a World Cup race in Stockholm, where Vonn’s first question to the Swede was, “How’d you do it? How’d you get so many wins?”

On Monday, Stenmark told Vonn that if she beats his record, she also must win “Dancing with the Stars,” as Stenmark did on the Swedish version of the show in 2015.

“If you help teach me to dance for the show, it’s a deal,” Vonn told him.

This season, Vonn has one win in five World Cup races since her rushed return from breaking her right upper arm in a November training crash. She can’t reach Stenmark’s record this season — there are too few races remaining.

If Vonn goes on a winning tear in the next year, she can break the record before the PyeongChang Olympics.

MORE: Roger Federer takes in World Champs with Lindsey Vonn

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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