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

Lindsey Vonn
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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.

Austrian denies Norwegian history in men’s Beaver Creek race

Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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