Lindsey Vonn gets bad luck, Mikaela Shiffrin misses gate in super-G

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Neither Lindsey Vonn nor Mikaela Shiffrin made the podium, but Swiss Lara Gut notched her first victory Sunday since a major knee injury.

Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champion who tore an ACL in February, topped a World Cup super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, by .14 over Italian Johanna Schnarf.

Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer was third. Full results are here.

Vonn dropped to sixth, .37 behind, dropped a couple of expletives in the finish corral and posted on social media afterward that she caught her strongest wind gust in more than 400 career starts.

“I’m not mad; I’m just a little bit frustrated,” Vonn said. “Sometimes this happens in ski racing where the races aren’t really fair. The wind comes. The light comes. The clouds come. But I tried my best. I’m happy with my skiing. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t very lucky today. Hopefully I can get some of this luck and take it with me to February [and the Olympics] and get some better conditions.”

Vonn placed second and first in downhills in Cortina on Friday and Saturday, confirming she’s a favorite to become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist next month.

Shiffrin was off her line early in Sunday’s run and eventually missed a gate, screaming out of frustration.

She is still cutting her teeth in the speed events of downhill and super-G and was third and seventh in the previous two races.

“The problem was with my [pre-race course] inspection, and I’m not exactly sure what we can do for me to be better prepared for super-Gs,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “One of my biggest issues right now is still switching from the timing of downhill turns to super-G turns.”

Laurenne Ross became the sixth U.S. female Alpine skier to qualify for the Olympic team thanks to a previous top-10. Ross, the second-best U.S. speed racer behind Vonn last season, came back from blowing out her right knee in a March 27 crash.

The World Cup moves to Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday for a giant slalom, where Shiffrin will be favored (full Alpine season broadcast schedule here).

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Italians sweep downhill on tough day for Lindsey Vonn, U.S.

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Sofia Goggia led an Italian podium sweep of a World Cup downhill, while Lindsey Vonn and the Americans all finished outside the top 10 on Sunday.

Goggia, 25, notched her first victory this season and since winning both races at the PyeongChang Olympic venue last March among 13 podiums total in the campaign.

She prevailed by 1.10 seconds over countrywoman Federica Brignone.

Nadia Fanchini was third on a tricky, shortened course in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria.

Laurenne Ross was the top American in 13th, with Vonn skiing conservatively for 27th place, 3.03 seconds slower than Goggia. Vonn waved off after finishing her run.

Full results are here.

“I knew it was going to be a struggle,” Vonn said. “Really poor visibility and pretty icy and bumpy conditions. … I really had no grip on the ice. Felt like I was skiing on marbles.

“This course takes a lot of aggression and really willing to risk everything. I’m just not willing to risk everything right now. I’ve been waiting eight years for the Olympics. I’m not necessarily disappointed in my result because it honestly doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that I’m healthy, and I didn’t end my season this weekend.”

Tough snow conditions dogged the venue all week, with one training run canceled and another shortened before racing started with a super-G on Saturday.

Another downhill training run was squeezed in hours before Sunday morning’s event.

Vonn didn’t commit to racing either day until seeing the course conditions. She was ninth in Saturday’s super-G, which marked her second-best result in eight races this season (one victory).

Ross’ 13th-place finish Sunday can be considered a bright spot.

The Sochi Olympian raced downhill, scared, for the first time since blowing out her right knee in a March 27 crash.

“These are the most difficult conditions I’ve skied in since I’ve been injured,” Ross said. “I definitely had a lot of doubt and fear an anxiety. … It didn’t feel good, but I suppose nobody’s run felt that great.”

The World Cup moves to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, next weekend, with Vonn and World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin headlining.

They are the final races before the full U.S. Olympic Alpine team will be named.

Vonn, Shiffrin, Resi Stiegler and Megan McJames have already qualified for the team.

The big-name question mark is Julia Mancuso, who has raced twice since March 2015 due to hip problems, finishing 42nd and 45th in December super-Gs.

Mancuso, 33, is the most decorated U.S. female Olympic skier with four medals.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s dominance rarely seen in sports, let alone skiing

Top U.S. skier grapples with fear, doubt after latest, most difficult injury

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U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Laurenne Ross is reminded every time she looks into a mirror. Of that crash 19 years ago.

“My cheek was basically torn off of my face, and I had a serious concussion,” Ross said. “I had over 100 stitches in my cheek.

“To see these scars as a positive part of who I am has taken my whole life, and I’m still working on it.”

Ross was introduced to skiing at 18 months old by her father, a former Canadian ski racer.

Since 2006, the Oregonian has shattered her pelvis and dislocated her shoulder ten times. She blew out her left ACL in 2008. She has broken a lot of bones in her hands and wrists. A labral tear in her hip. Concussions. A few bulging discs. Two severe ankle sprains. Add multiple severe facial lacerations, accumulating more than 200 stitches in her face.

Then came March 27. Another crash at the U.S. Championships in Sugarloaf, Maine. She blew out her right knee.

“This specific injury,” said Ross, on crutches four weeks later and overcome with emotion, “is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through.”

The 28-year-old Ross is the second-best speed racer on the U.S. team behind Lindsey Vonn.

Her last two seasons have been the best of her eight-year World Cup career.

Nine top-10 finishes in 2015-16. Another seven this past season. She was fifth in the world championships downhill and fourth in the downhill at the Olympic test event in South Korea.

Ross made her first Olympic team in Sochi, where she was 11th in the downhill. She was shaping up for medal contention in PyeongChang until that March 27 crash. A podium is still possible next February, but it will take an incredible climb.

Ross wrote that not being able to ski again is “a real possibility” in a passionate blog post titled “My First Steps,” published six weeks after the crash.

“With this injury (as with many) has come so many questions, concerns, doubts, considerations,” she wrote. “What if I can’t get strong enough to return to the level of skiing I was maintaining before my crash? What if I get back on skis and am stricken with doubt, crippled by fear? What if…what if I can’t even ski again? Though it’s unlikely, it is a real possibility. And then…what? Although I have deliberated on this before, never have I done so so thoroughly.”

Ross has the whole offseason to think deeply. The 2017-18 season’s first speed races will likely be in late November or early December.

“I want to be the one who decides when I’m done ski racing,” Ross wrote. “I don’t want my body to hold me back, or the [U.S.] Ski Team to make that decision for me. I want to leave on my own terms. And I don’t think I’m ready to do that yet….But what if I don’t have a choice? What if I’m forced to move on by the powers that be? How do I come to terms with that?”

Ross has interests outside of skiing. She journals daily, knits and can play the piano, guitar, violin and cello. She takes classes at the University of Oregon after each season, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She jokes her hope is to graduate within the next 10 years.

“I feel like I am my truest self when I’m on my skis,” Ross said last month, adding later on her blog, “This break from skiing is only going to make me miss it more, make me hungry, and make me fierce. But if it doesn’t work out, there is another endeavor waiting for me — waiting for all of us — when this one comes to an end.”

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