Steve Porino: Impact of Lindsey Vonn’s injury

Lindsey Vonn

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.

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw

Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open

Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

“I feel like I was still playing good points. Elise was just being really tough, not making a lot of errors and making me play every single ball. And with the windy conditions, I felt like it definitely played into her game,” Pegula said.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Also Friday, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus won a third consecutive match in straight sets, then took questions from a selected group of reporters rather than conducting an open press conference. She cited mental health, two days after a tense back and forth with a journalist asking questions about the war, which she declined to answer.

“For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts,” she said Friday. “These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference.”

Sabalenka next plays American Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion now ranked 30th, who reached the fourth round with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the former world No. 3, is into the fourth round of her first major since October childbirth. She’ll play ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Novak Djokovic continued his bid for a men’s record-breaking 23rd major title by dispatching No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2. Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent will be No. 13 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland or 94th-ranked Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas.

Later Friday, top seed Carlos Alcaraz faces 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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