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Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin share jokes, peace of mind at World Cup Finals

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Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin began answering at the same time when asked at a group press conference about the meaning of this week’s World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo.

After a brief moment of confusion, Vonn, 32, lifted her microphone to her lips and ceded the floor to Shiffrin, 22.

“Beauty before age,” she deadpanned.

Shiffrin chuckled and answered the question.

“I was just going to say that ‘Dumb and Dumber’ was filmed here,” the Vail native said, drawing laughs and a smile from Vonn. “Everybody’s been talking about it. That’s unique.”

Vonn and another veteran skier on stage, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, then turned to Shiffrin and chided her for not being alive when the December 1994 film came out.

World Cup Finals races run from Wednesday through Sunday in Aspen. Vonn and Shiffrin will be skiing with less pressure than years’ past.

“It’s the end of the year,” Vonn would say Monday night. “Everyone’s kind of ready to be done, ready to celebrate.”

The World Cup Finals are the last races of the season on the men’s and women’s World Cup tours, beginning with downhills Wednesday. All races will air on NBC Sports via NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app (full schedule at the bottom).

The Finals often determine who takes home crystal globes awarded to the best skier’s per discipline and overall for the season.

But Vonn will not add to her total of 20 globes this year due to injuries that kept her off the competition slopes for November, December and half of January. She has too much ground to make up in the downhill and super-G standings.

Shiffrin is too far ahead of the competition to lose the slalom title. She mathematically clinched her fourth slalom globe in five years with her latest victory in an 11-win season Saturday.

Shiffrin has also 99-percent clinched the World Cup overall title, with a 378-point lead going into this week’s races. She will become the fifth American to take home that crystal globe, the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

With globes wrapped up, the dangling carrots for Vonn and Shiffrin this week are purely race victories.

Vonn’s events are up first, a downhill on Wednesday and a super-G on Thursday. Shiffrin’s specialties — slalom and giant slalom — are Saturday and Sunday.

Vonn will hope to add to her total of 77 World Cup wins, which is nine shy of the career record held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. A victory or two in Aspen will lessen the pressure on Vonn to catch Stenmark in the 2017-18 Olympic season.

Vonn, who has averaged about 10 wins per season when healthy, has just one victory this year, coming back from crash-caused knee and arm fractures in 2016.

Slovenian Ilka Stuhec has emerged as the world’s best speed racer, while Italian Sofia Goggia edged Vonn in the downhill and super-G at the 2018 Olympic track two weekends ago.

Shiffrin has no rival in Saturday’s slalom. She has won seven of the nine races in the discipline this season, plus her third straight gold at the world championships.

But Sunday’s giant slalom could feature an interesting head-to-head.

France’s Tessa Worley leads the season GS standings by 80 points over Shiffrin and will wrap up that crystal globe with a top-12 finish. Little intrigue there.

But Shiffrin’s GS has improved this season to the point where she could be considered a favorite to beat Worley in Friday’s race. Shiffrin has won three of the last five World Cup giant slaloms, plus took silver behind Worley at the world championships last month.

Shiffrin is about to wrap up one of the most successful seasons in World Cup history. Her 11 wins in one campaign are the most-ever by an American other than Vonn.

If Shiffrin wins both the slalom on Saturday and the GS on Sunday, she will reach 13 wins this season, only done three times by male or female skiers in World Cup history. And she would get to 33 career World Cup wins, matching Bode Miller‘s total for the second-most by an American.

Behind only Vonn, of course.

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World Cup Finals broadcast schedule
(all NBC, NBCSN coverage also streamed)

Day Time (ET) Network Event
Wednesday 12-2 p.m. NBCSN, Streaming Men’s, Women’s Downhills
Thursday 11:30 a.m. Streaming Women’s Super-G
Thursday 12-2 p.m. NBCSN Women’s, Men’s Super-Gs
Friday 12:30-2 p.m. NBCSN Team Event
Saturday 11 a.m. Streaming Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1
Saturday 12 p.m. Streaming Women’s Slalom Run 1
Saturday 12:30-2 p.m. NBC Men’s GS, Women’s Slalom Run 1s
Saturday 6-8 p.m. NBCSN Men’s GS, Women’s Slalom Run 2s
Sunday 11 a.m. Streaming Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1
Sunday 12 p.m. Streaming Men’s Slalom Run 1
Sunday 1-4 p.m. NBCSN Women’s GS, Men’s Slalom

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37