Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn wins in second race in return; U.S. sweep (video)

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Lindsey Vonn is back.

Vonn won a World Cup downhill race in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Saturday, her second start since January knee surgery knocked her out of the Sochi Olympics.

“I’m finally feeling confident going fast again,” said Vonn, who hoped to make the podium but didn’t expect a victory. “I’m finally back to where I feel confident. I’m pushing the limits. I want more speed. I haven’t had that yet until today.”

Vonn dominated the field, leading the first U.S. sweep in World Cup history (men or women). She clocked 1 minute, 50.48 seconds. Stacey Cook was second, .49 behind. Julia Mancuso was third, .57 back.

Vonn’s margin of victory was greater than the margin separating second place from ninth place.

Vonn notched her 60th career World Cup win, moving within two of the women’s record held by retired Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll.

She screamed after seeing her leading time when she crossed the finish line, yelled “Yes!” repeatedly and dropped to the snow in delight.

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion finished eighth in a Lake Louise downhill Friday, her first race since Dec. 21, 2013.

“It’s just finding my rhythm and finding my confidence,” said Vonn, who won for the first time since Jan. 26, 2013. “Every day has gotten better here. Today, I went a little bit more aggressive than I did yesterday, took some more chances.”

She’s skiing at a venue nicknamed “Lake Lindsey.” She won seven straight World Cup races in Lake Louise from 2010 to 2012 and has 15 victories there overall.

“I definitely think that I shocked a few people,” Vonn said. “I don’t think really anyone expected me to win today. I could definitely see that on some of the girls’ faces.”

Vonn, whose best finish in three training runs earlier this week was eighth, will compete again in Lake Louise in a super-G on Sunday.

“I haven’t had much training,” Vonn said. “The three days of training here have been training for me.

“I’m not expecting this kind of result all the time just yet.”

The last nation to sweep a women’s World Cup podium was Austria in 2009.

Cook, a three-time Olympian, made her first World Cup podium since Dec. 1, 2012.

Mancuso, the most decorated U.S. Olympic female skier with four medals, made her first World Cup podium since March 3, 2013.

Vonn’s right knee problems began at the February 2013 World Championships, when she crashed in the super-G and required season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and a fractured tibial plateau.

She injured the knee again in a training crash on Nov. 20, 2013. Vonn’s only three completed races last season were at Lake Louise, where she finished 40th, 11th and fifth last December.

Vonn, a four-time World Cup overall champion, aggravated the knee in her fourth World Cup race last season in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 21, 2013.

She underwent another knee surgery in January, ruling her out of the Sochi Olympics.

“I fought so hard to be back where I am, at the top of the podium,” Vonn said, according to Reuters. “It means the world to me, it’s just unbelievable. It’s like a dream day.”

Vonn skied with a right knee brace but said she has not restrictions. The knee doesn’t swell, she doesn’t ice it, and it doesn’t hurt.

Vonn’s goals for the rest of her career are clear. She wants to pass Moser-Proell for the women’s World Cup victories record.

Vonn has said she also has thought about the men’s record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 races.

Vonn averaged 10 victories per season from 2009 through 2012. If she gets back on that pace and stays healthy, she would need to ski well into the 2016-17 World Cup season to pass Stenmark around age 32.

She also wants to ski at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. If she competes there and wins a medal, she is slated to become the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.

But first, she will celebrate with a glass of champagne with her teammates and her father in Lake Louise on Saturday. When she gets home to Colorado, she will enjoy ice cream with the brindle boxer she adopted in January, Leo, and watch Law & Order, which she appeared on in 2010.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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