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Veronika Velez Zuzulova, top Mikaela Shiffrin rival, needs surgery

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One of Mikaela Shiffrin‘s top rivals will miss the start of the Alpine skiing season

Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, second to Shiffrin in last season’s slalom standings, is undergoing right knee surgery that will keep her out at least two months, according to her social media.

Velez Zuzulova’s unspecified injury could have otherwise kept her out six to eight months (the Olympics are in five months) if she had not chosen this particular surgery, according to the post.

Velez Zuzulova is sure to miss the first slalom of the World Cup season is Levi, Finland, on Nov. 11. She could also miss the second slalom in Killington, Vt., on Nov. 26.

Velez Zuzulova, 33, revealed last week that she hurt her knee in preseason training in Argentina.

She won three World Cup slaloms between the last two seasons. Only Shiffrin, with 12 victories, has more.

Velez Zuzulova finished second in the World Cup slalom season standings in 2016 (to Swede Frida Hansdotter; Shiffrin missed much of the season with a knee injury) and in 2017 (to Shiffrin, a massive 275 points behind).

Velez Zuzulova, an Olympian in 2002, 2006 and 2010, missed the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after tearing her left ACL in October 2013.

Shiffrin’s biggest slalom rivals to start the season should be world silver medalist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, plus another Slovakian, Petra Vlhova, and Hansdotter.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s best season also brought the most anxiety

Lindsey Vonn sets first race of Olympic season

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Lindsey Vonn will open the Olympic season at her most successful venue — Lake Louise, Alberta, the first weekend of December.

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion will not race earlier World Cup giant slaloms in Austria in October and Killington, Vt., on Thanksgiving weekend, she said from a preseason camp in Chile on Thursday.

Instead, Vonn will wait to enter the first speed races (downhill, super-G) at Lake Louise, where she has won 18 times in 41 World Cup starts.

That’s no surprise.

Vonn, 32, has focused on speed events in recent injury-shortened seasons as she chases the World Cup wins record of 86 held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

That includes last year, when she got a late start due to the most painful injury of her career — a severely fractured humerus bone in her right arm suffered Nov. 10.

Vonn came back for win No. 77, plus a world championships bronze medal. More importantly for her Olympic prospects, Vonn finished second in both World Cup races at the PyeongChang Olympic venue.

Vonn does plan to race giant slalom this season. Perhaps starting in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 19.

“I want to make sure I’m ready when I start GS,” she said.

Vonn said in April that she also intended to race the giant slalom at her likely final Olympics in February. The Olympic schedule makes it more enticing.

The women’s technical events of giant slalom and slalom are in the first week of the PyeongChang Winter Games. The downhill and super-G are in the second week.

“It’s going to be good for me to get over there early, get settled in, get one race under my belt,” Vonn said in April.

Vonn last raced giant slalom Jan. 30, 2016, and last won a GS on Dec. 12, 2015, her only finish better than fifth in a GS since the first of her recent major injuries in February 2013.

“Before I was injured, the season before I won a GS [in 2012], so I know that I can ski well,” Vonn, who owns four career World Cup GS wins, said in April. “It’s just a matter of if I have a healthy prep period I can train it.”

The world’s best GS skiers are Frenchwoman Tessa Worley and Mikaela Shiffrin, who went one-two in last year’s World Cup standings and at the world championships.

Vonn is still expected to retire after the 2018-19 season, though she left the door open slightly Thursday.

“I could be just like Bode [Miller], and I keep going forever and ever and you never know when I’m going to stop,” she said with a straight face.

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MORE: Top Shiffrin rival on crutches

Top Mikaela Shiffrin rival on crutches

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Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, the second-best slalom skier to Mikaela Shiffrin last season, is on crutches one month before the start of the Olympic season.

She is out indefinitely with a knee injury while in Argentina for training on Sunday, according to Slovakian media. The Slovakian Ski Association has not responded to a request for comment.

Zuzulova, 33, won three World Cup slaloms between the last two seasons. Only Shiffrin, with 12 victories, has more.

Zuzulova finished second in the World Cup slalom season standings in 2016 (to Swede Frida Hansdotter; Shiffrin missed much of the season with a knee injury) and in 2017 (to Shiffrin, a massive 275 points behind).

Zuzulova, an Olympian in 2002, 2006 and 2010, missed the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after tearing her left ACL in October 2013.

The first World Cup slalom this season is Nov. 12 in Levi, Finland.

If Zuzulova is out, Shiffrin’s biggest rivals should be world silver medalist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, plus another Slovakian, Petra Vlhova, and Hansdotter.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s best season also brought the most anxiety