Steve Porino: Impact of Lindsey Vonn’s injury

Lindsey Vonn
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With the news of Lindsey Vonn‘s training crash Tuesday, OlympicTalk editor Nick Zaccardi reached out to NBC Olympics Alpine skiing analyst Steve Porino for his observations of what’s next for the Olympic downhill champion.

Porino recently interviewed Vonn for Universal Sports ahead of her planned return to competition at Beaver Creek, Colo., over Thanksgiving weekend.

She is out indefinitely after suffering a partial tear to her right ACL in the same knee she blew out at the World Championships in February, her publicist said Wednesday.

OlympicTalk: How serious is a partial ACL tear for Vonn?

Porino: There’s a whole gamut to a mild tear to your ACL. I think if it’s just that and not more complicated than that, there are a lot of skiers who have skied in that condition. Veronika Velez Zuzulova is trying to compete without an ACL this season.

There are various degrees of a tear. They grade it one (mild), two and three (complete tear). They didn’t say which that is.

OlympicTalk: Can we draw any conclusions without a timetable to return?

Porino: If there’s a silver lining, it’s that she won’t be distracted trying to win the overall World Cup title, when maybe she shouldn’t have in the first place. At this point it looks like there’s really only one thing she can focus on, and that’s the Olympics.

OlympicTalk: Can Vonn still be dominant at a major event without a full season of preparation?

Porino: We sort of got a glimpse of that at the World Championships in February. She had the stomach illness and sat out a long time (racing Dec. 16 and then not again until Jan. 12, three weeks before the World Championships).

She crashed in her first race at worlds, but if we judge her by the first 40 seconds of that super-G (she was .12 of a second behind winner Tina Maze at a split halfway through), we can say she was back and blood thirsty.

Just based on what we’ve seen from her career, that’s the longest we’ve seen her been out and then come back in the same season. If she were to come back a couple of weeks before being 100 percent, that’s doable for her because she’s got a big training block in already (skiing in Chile, Austria and the U.S. since Aug. 31).

OlympicTalk: How prepared is Vonn to handle this mentally?

Porino: As well as I know her and have known her since she was a kid, I think I learned something even in February. Pain is not going to get in her way. Even the specter of long-term injury or long-term repercussions of doing something to her knee, that’s not enough to deter her. She is quite good at ignoring the pain, ignoring the possible consequences and skiing at her best. I think she is actually exceptional in that regard.

OlympicTalk: What about her safety?

Porino: As she’s alluded to, everything’s a negotiation between her and U.S. Ski Team doctor Bill Sterett. We like to think of medicine as hard science, but what she sees in the MRI and what she feels are both taken into account. Nothing really trumps the other.

There are people out there who are going to say she came back too soon. Until you see and look at the crash, it’s hard to know. It’s such a gray area, when to come back. The coach’s job and the doctor’s job will be to tighten the leash on her. That will always be the role. I think that’s the case for a lot of athletes, but particularly her. Tighten the leash and try to err on the side of caution.

Lindsey Vonn, much like she was four years ago (when she went into the Olympics with a bruised shin), is in control her own destiny. A concussion is supposed to be the one area she’s not supposed to control, and she somehow skirted that one at the 2011 World Championships.

Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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