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Lindsey Vonn set to race at PyeongChang Olympic venue, live in primetime

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Lindsey Vonn says this weekend’s World Cup races at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea aren’t so much about winning as they are about gaining confidence.

“My goal is just to try and get as much experience on the track as possible, to get a good feeling on it and really analyze it, remember it for next year,” Vonn said Thursday. “The pressure will come next year, not so much this year.”

Nevertheless, Vonn posted the fastest time in training in Jeongseon on Thursday, .17 ahead of the top downhiller this season, Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

The women’s field is set for one more training run before a World Cup downhill race on Friday at 9 p.m. ET (live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

They will race again in a super-G on Saturday (also 9 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

The World Cup stop doubles as a 2018 Olympic test event.

It’s a rare chance to watch Vonn live in primetime in the U.S. Most World Cup races are held in Europe in the late morning or early afternoon, making for early wake-ups for American viewers.

South Korea is 14 hours ahead of New York.

Vonn arrived in South Korea on Tuesday and said at the airport that she was 70 percent fit and getting better, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Vonn, who won 2010 Olympic downhill gold but missed the 2014 Olympics due to crash-related injuries, is once again fighting neck whiplash from a race crash last Saturday. And food poisoning from earlier that week.

She returned to racing in January after suffering three knee fractures in a Feb. 27, 2016, race crash and breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash.

Vonn is also fighting age. She turns 33 in October. The oldest female Olympic Alpine skiing medalist ever was 32 years old.

“Most females retire before 33, so, yeah, I’m pretty sure PyeongChang will be my last Olympics,” Vonn said.

Vonn has three goals left in her career. The biggest is to break the record for World Cup wins of 86 held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. She is at 77 wins.

A year ago, it looked as if Vonn could break Stenmark’s record before the 2018 Olympics. But those crashes and injuries limited her to one victory since Feb. 6, 2016 after averaging 8.5 wins per season the last two years.

“I’m not sure how many World Cups I’ll have won before the Olympics, but hopefully more than 77,” Vonn joked Thursday.

As for the Olympics, Vonn said in previous interviews that she wanted to reclaim the Olympic downhill title in PyeongChang. She was more modest on Thursday.

“I hope to win a medal, hopefully one or two, one would be great,” said Vonn, whose third goal is to race against men at some point after the 2018 Olympics. “My main focus before PyeongChang is to stay healthy.”

In 2008, Vonn finished second in the downhill at the 2010 Olympic test event in Whistler, B.C., missing the victory by one-hundredth of a second.

No matter, Vonn broke out that season by bagging six wins, her first of four World Cup overall titles and the status as biggest American star going into Vancouver Winter Games.

Two years later, Vonn won the Olympic downhill by more than a half-second over Julia Mancuso, who is also in Jeongseon this week and may race for the first time since March 2015.

Vonn has company in this Olympic cycle in the form of Sochi slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, who is poised to win this season’s World Cup overall title as world’s best all-around skier. She would be the first American to claim the crown since Vonn.

Though Shiffrin has victories this season in slalom, giant slalom and super combined, she is not expected to race in the downhill and super-G on Friday and Saturday. Shiffrin planned to fly back to the U.S. early to prep for next weekend’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

So the focus is again on Vonn, who on Thursday was once again the fastest on an Olympic track, albeit in training.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good first training run,” she said. “It’s not necessarily whether I win these test events or not, so much as how confident I am on the track.”

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Alina Zagitova hands Yevgenia Medvedeva first loss in 2 years

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva is no longer the clear favorite in the Winter Olympics’ marquee event.

The two-time world champion lost for the first time in more than two years, upset by training partner Alina Zagitova at the European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

Italian Carolina Kostner earned bronze.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, set personal bests in the short program and free skate and totaled 238.24 points. She beat Medvedeva by 5.38 points.

Medvedeva, in her first competition since November due to a broken foot, fully rotated all of her jumps Saturday, but Zagitova was cleaner. She also stumbled out of a double Axel in her short program.

“I did not feel the injury,” Medvedeva said after the short program, according to the International Skating Union. “Everything has healed.”

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

Zagitova was born three months after the Salt Lake City Olympics and without a name for her first year. Her parents eventually decided on Alina after watching Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva on TV.

She had been working to this point in her first senior international season. She swept her two fall Grand Prix starts, then won the Grand Prix Final in December, all without Medvedeva in the field.

On Saturday, she landed all of her jumps (including seven triples) in the second half of her program for 10 percent bonuses. It’s the type of technical content layout ambitious enough to challenge Medvedeva.

“I think that Zhenia [Medvedeva] is her role model in life, in behavior, in her way to work,” shared coach Eteri Tutberidze said last year, according to Goldenskate.com. “Alina absolutely tries to copy her way to work, the amount of work and she doesn’t stop. This helps. I can sometimes show Zhenia and say, ‘Look how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look how Zhenia is working.’”

Medvedeva, whose last defeat was in November 2015, also won both of her Grand Prix starts, posting the world’s highest scores this season, while dealing with foot pain.

She underwent an MRI that revealed a crack, then withdrew from the Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships in December. She is still expected to be on the Olympic Athlete from Russia team in PyeongChang.

Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who made her Europeans debut in 2003, fell on her opening triple Lutz and landed just three triple jumps Saturday.

She hung on to win a medal at her 11th straight European Championships.

Russian Maria Sotskova, the Grand Prix Final silver medalist, fell on her last triple jump, a Lutz, among other landing troubles. She placed fourth.

Those four skaters are the Olympic medal contenders along with Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman and Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto.

U.S. champion Bradie Tennell ranks 14th in the world this season.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Julia Marino, Hailey Langland qualify for Olympics; U.S. sweeps possible

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The addition of snowboard big air to the Olympics next month means Jamie AndersonJulia Marino and Hailey Langland have two chances for a U.S. podium sweep in PyeongChang.

Marino and Langland qualified for the U.S. big air and slopestyle team Saturday, joining the already qualified Anderson, who won slopestyle’s debut in Sochi.

Anderson, Marino and Langland swept the podium in that order at the last Olympic qualifier in slopestyle in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

They also made up three of the top four riders at the 2017 X Games big air and slopestyle.

The U.S. has never swept the Winter Olympic medals in a women’s event but could do so in big air, slopestyle and even snowboard halfpipe in PyeongChang.

MORE: U.S. Olympic roster

While Anderson is the veteran, an X Games medalist 11 of the last 12 years, Marino and Langland represent the new wave of U.S. big air and slopestyle riders.

Marino, a 20-year-old from Connecticut who trains in Quebec, earned slopestyle and big air medals at X Games Aspen and Oslo last year in her debuts at those events.

They included slopestyle gold in Aspen over Anderson.

Langland, a 17-year-old from Southern California who plays the ukulele, guitar and piano, won the first X Games women’s big air title last year and took bronze in slopestyle in 2016.

Born in 2000, she is younger than any previous female Olympic snowboarding medalist.

“She reminds me of a younger me,” Anderson said, according to NBC Olympic Research.

The U.S. could add a fourth woman to the big air/slopestyle team, likely either Jessika Jenson or Ty Walker, a pair of 2014 Olympians in slopestyle.

The U.S. men are not as strong internationally in big air and slopestyle, where the Olympic favorites hail from Canada and Norway.

Kyle Mack won the last qualifier Saturday — without the top international riders in the field — to clinch the third and last automatic spot on the men’s big air/slopestyle team.

Chris Corning and Red Gerard previously qualified for PyeongChang. A fourth rider can be added via discretionary selection.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through five of five events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED
1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Kyle Mack — 1,800* QUALIFIED

4. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,800* QUALIFIED
3. Hailey Langland — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire field.

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