Lindsey Vonn finishes first race in 10 months (video)

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Lindsey Vonn safely made it down the mountain in her first competition in 10 months, finishing 40th out of 61 skiers at a World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

The Olympic downhill champion completed the course in 1 minute, 59.22 seconds. German Maria Hoefl-Riesch won in 1:56.03 (results at bottom).

“I was just too nervous,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “I was really tight, and I skied that way. I skied tight.

“I wasn’t in a really deep tuck. I wasn’t pushing the line where I could have. And I just kind of skied it, and that’s not my style. That’s not how I attack a race.”

Vonn, 29, skied her first race since blowing out her right knee at the World Championships in February and partially tearing her right ACL on Nov. 19. The downhill was delayed by an hour due to below-zero temperatures.

“I’m always a positive thinker,” Vonn said, according to the AP. “I try to look on the bright side of everything, and I was really optimistic that I could come down and just — first race, right out of the blocks — win, and it was wishful thinking. But might as well shoot for the best, you know?”

The Lake Louise World Cup stop continues with a downhill on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET) and a super-G on Sunday (1 p.m.). Vonn is expected to race in both. Universal Sports will have coverage.

Vonn decided to race this weekend following a training run Wednesday. She said her right knee felt “stable,” though she skipped an opportunity at taking another training run Thursday. She said she would race with a knee brace.

She’s skiing at a course nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” for her overwhelming success there. She’s won the last seven World Cup races at Lake Louise. She hasn’t finished lower than second at a Lake Louise race since 2008.

“To be honest, we didn’t expect her to win this race,” U.S. Ski Team coach Chip White said, according to the AP. “A lot of people do, just because she has so many times. But with all she’s been through, we’re just happy to see her back in the mix, and I think this is where we build from.”

The rest of the U.S. women have performed poorly in early-season speed races after putting six in the top 16 in last season’s downhill standings.

Olympic downhill silver medalist Julia Mancuso was 26th on Friday. Stacey Cook, fourth in the World Cup downhill standings last season, followed in 39th. Leanne Smith and Laurenne Ross, who made World Cup podiums last season, were 49th and 56th.

In three speed races this season, the top U.S. finish is 19th.

Lake Louise Downhill
1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:56.03
2. Maria Kaufmann-Abderhalden (SUI) 1:56.73
3. Elena Fanchini (ITA) 1:57.23
4. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:57.30
5. Nadja Jnglin-Kamer (SUI) 1:57.54
6. Tina Maze (SLO) 1:57.57
7. Larisa Yurkiw (CAN) 1:57.66
7. Stefanie Moser (AUT) 1:57.66
9. Carolina Ruiz Castillo (ESP) 1:57.76
10. Lara Gut (SUI) 1:57.79
21. Julia Ford (USA) 1:58.51
26. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:58.66
32. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) 1:58.95
39. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:59.20
40. Lindsey Vonn (USA) 1:59.22
49. Leanne Smith (USA) 2:00.01
54. Katie Ryan (USA) 2:00.85
56. Laurenne Ross (USA) 2:01.00

Svindal wins Beaver Creek downhill; Americans struggle

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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