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Lindsey Vonn: Women viewed as ‘second-rate’ on World Cup

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Lindsey Vonn, after hearing European ski officials criticize her bid to race men, said that women are viewed as “second-rate” and “the pony show” on the World Cup circuit.

“I think it’s important for women to have equal rights,” Vonn said in a video interview posted by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “Sometimes there is a line, but I think that we need to balance that as best we can. There are definitely instances where we aren’t equal to men. It’s not always fair. Definitely is a generalization that we are kind of second-rate on the World Cup. You know, we’re the pony show, and the men are the real race horses. So that’s always disappointing to hear, but I think there definitely is a discrepancy in the level. Men are definitely better than women, so that is true. Yeah, I think that in general those offensive comments, people should just keep them to themselves.”

Earlier this month, International Ski Federation (FIS) men’s race director Markus Waldner was quoted in Austrian media calling Vonn a “princess” seeking a spotlight in her bid to race men next year.

FIS is expected to rule in May on a U.S. Ski and Snowboard team proposal for Vonn to race men in November 2018 at Lake Louise, which holds men’s and women’s races annually on the World Cup tour. It’s Vonn’s most successful venue, where she has won 18 times in 41 starts.

“I would hope that I would be somewhere around 20th [place against the men],” Vonn said earlier this month, echoing her previously stated goal. “I know that they’re the next level, and I want to get to that next level. It’s that reason that I want to race with them. I’m not really trying to prove anything. I know they can beat me, but I want to see where I stand.”

In the Aftonbladet interview, Vonn denied suggestions that she wanted to race men as a publicity stunt.

“I have enough media. I don’t need to do this for a show,” she said. “It’s just for me, for my personal ambition because the men are the next level. I want to compare myself against them. I train with them all the time. It makes me ski better, and I want to see what it’s like to race with them in a regular World Cup competition. I don’t want do some exhibition. I don’t want to do a show. I want it to be a real race. It’s pretty disappointing to hear some of the negative comments I’ve gotten, but everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”

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MORE: Vonn, Shiffrin top Alpine season storylines

Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics