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Lindsey Vonn returns to World Cup, but winning is not priority

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BAD KLEINKIRCHHEIM, Austria (AP) — After a four-week break from racing, Lindsey Vonn is returning to the Alpine skiing World Cup this weekend with an unusual mindset.

For the most successful female skier of all time, Vonn’s main priority at the first speed events of 2018 won’t be winning.

With only 40 days left until her season highlight, the Olympic downhill in PyeongChang, avoiding injuries is all that matters.

“I feel solid but my focus this season is on the Olympics. So I am not going to risk anything this weekend,” Vonn told The Associated Press on Friday after taking part in a shortened training session.

She was worried because the snow on parts of the Karnten-Franz Klammer course was still too weak after heavy rain this week and mild temperatures.

“The top is good, but the bottom is not safe to race,” she said.

Organizers swapped the program for this weekend by pushing back the downhill to Sunday and rescheduling a super-G for Saturday, as a downhill can be staged only after competitors have at least one training run on the entire course.

The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of each race at 4:30 and 5 a.m. ET, respectively, on Saturday and Sunday. It will also stream on the Olympic Channel app and OlympicChannel.com.

“I am also not sure why the super-G is first,” Vonn said. “Considering the snow conditions, it would be better to do the downhill first but, again, I don’t know. We haven’t inspected the bottom part of the course so I am not really sure what the reason behind it is.”

Vonn said she would make her own decision about racing or not after checking the course on Saturday, saying she would rather sit it out “if conditions aren’t good enough to run.”

Vonn badly injured her right knee landing in a patch of soft snow during the 2013 World Championships, which ultimately ruled the 2010 Olympic downhill champion out of the Sochi Games the following year.

It explains the 33-year-old American’s cautiousness going into what likely will be her last Olympics.

Her season so far has been rather rough.

Trying to improve her ranking ahead of the Olympic giant slalom, she failed to qualify for the second run of the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 28.

Focusing on the speed events since, she landed in the safety netting at full speed during the first downhill in Lake Louise on Dec. 1, and finished only 12th in another downhill the next day.

She crashed again in a super-G on the third day of racing at the Canadian resort where she won 18 times in the past.

A week later, she jarred her back in a super-G in St. Moritz, Switzerland, completing the race in pain in 24th place.

Vonn hasn’t raced since Dec. 16 when she earned her 78th career win at a super-G in Val d’Isere, France.

The following day, she took part in the early morning inspection for another super-G at the resort but then decided against racing, citing a sore knee, and flew home.

“The last race in Val d’Isere I skied very well,” she said. “It still wasn’t my best but I had a good block at home in Colorado. I was able to do a lot of condition training and got some GS and slalom in as well.”

Vonn practicing slalom underlined her ambition to start in the Olympic super combined as well.

“I feel good, definitely,” Vonn said, adding the knee was hampering her “not more than usual. I feel decent.”

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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