Lindsey Vonn hopes to return in December

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn doesn’t expect to return to ski racing until December, a little over a month after the World Cup season starts, citing “slow going” rehab from her latest knee surgery.

Vonn told The Associated Press on Saturday there was ”quite a bit of meniscus damage” after January surgery on the right knee she blew out at the 2013 World Championships last February and re-aggravated in November and December. That caused her to push back her time frame.

She said she hopes to be back on snow in October and skiing at World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December. The delay is not too impactful, given the World Cup season doesn’t start until Oct. 25 and there are no speed races — Vonn’s best events — until Lake Louise on Dec. 5 (full schedule here).

Vonn also said she probably would have retired after the 2014-15 season had she not missed the Olympics.

“If I had raced in Sochi, that probably would have been the case,” Vonn said, according to the Denver Post. “Having not raced in Sochi, that totally changed everything. Barring anything [bad] happening, I’m committed to another four years. Even if I do well next year at the World Championships, I want to be able to have an opportunity to ‘defend’ my [2010 Olympic downhill] gold medal.”

Vonn, 29, spoke with the AP and the newspaper recently after the conclusion of the World Cup season, a circuit she last competed on Dec. 21.

Vonn conceded her bid to return for Sochi on Jan. 7, underwent another knee surgery one week later and worked for NBC during the Sochi Olympics rather than compete in Russia.

Vonn said she refused to watch the Olympic downhill and super-G, events she won gold and bronze in four years ago.

Outside of the World Cup, she’s focused on returning for the 2015 World Championships near her home in Vail, Colo., and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Vonn would be 33 years old at the next Winter Games. If she competes in Pyeongchang and wins a medal, she will be the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.

Vonn has 59 career World Cup wins. She is second all-time among women behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who had 62, and has long been thought to eventually break it, even with her major knee injuries.

The women’s Alpine skiing scene will be different when Vonn returns. Her longtime friendly rival, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, has retired. Slovenian Tina Maze‘s races are numbered as she has said she won’t be around for the 2018 Olympics.

The new all-around star is Austrian Anna Fenninger, who won gold and silver in Sochi and finished the season on a tear to win her first World Cup overall title.

Fenninger is 24. U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin just turned 19 and is expected to add super-G to her plate next season. Shiffrin is the Olympic, World and World Cup champion in slalom and has become a podium threat in giant slalom.

Those young forces will be the types of racers Vonn will have to fend off if she’s to return to the top of the sport, and stay there.

Shiffrin already training for next season

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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