Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn talks risk, fear and her future in skiing

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Lindsey Vonn remembered being there for the crash, on March 22, 2001, at Montana’s Big Mountain.

Vonn, then 16 and known as Lindsey Kildow, was embarking on a career that would include three (she hopes four) Olympics, four World Cup overall titles and the record for most World Cup victories by a woman.

At the 2001 U.S. Championships, the most talked-about racer was a man 24 years older than Vonn. Bill Johnson, the 1984 Olympic downhill champion, was trying to make the 2002 Olympic team after 14 years away from ski racing.

Johnson crashed in a training run at Big Mountain that left him with a traumatic brain injury after awakening from a three-week coma.

“I haven’t thought about it in a long time, since you just mentioned it,” Vonn said from St. Moritz, Switzerland, via phone Tuesday. “None of us really knew what was going on. We didn’t know how severe the injury was. None of us saw the crash. But I didn’t really connect it with my life, because he was coming back and quite a bit older than I was. My thought process never drifted into, well, that could be me. More so when I see girls my age crashing.”

Crashes, fear and risk are parts of ski racing. Vonn knew that well before she tore the MCL and ACL in her right knee and suffered a fractured tibial plateau on Feb. 5, 2013 at the World Championships in Schladming, Austria. Her injury history is outlined here.

She persevered through accelerated rehabilitation that spring and summer. Then, she crashed again on Nov. 19, 2013, in training in Copper Mountain, Colo., and eventually needed another surgery on Jan. 14, 2014.

“I had to take things a lot slower [the second time],” Vonn said. “The pain was greater.”

Vonn missed the Sochi Olympics, and a chance to defend her Olympic downhill title, and faced more grueling rehab.

“Lindsey Vonn: The Climb,” a one-hour documentary chronicling her comeback to the top of her sport, debuts on NBC on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.

Vonn has won four times in eight races this season, culminating in breaking the women’s Alpine skiing World Cup victories record set 35 years ago. Vonn, 30, has won 63 races going into this weekend’s competition in St. Moritz and the World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo., in two weeks.

“Breaking the record has much more meaning to me now than it would have two years ago because I’ve been through so much,” said Vonn, who spoke to the woman whose record she broke, Annemarie Moser-Proell, on the phone, in fluent German, from a Red Bull-owned Salzburg Airport hangar on primetime Austrian TV on Monday night, after winning a super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, that afternoon.

Vonn repeated Tuesday that she would have probably retired after the 2015 World Championships had she been able to defend her downhill gold in Sochi.

“Probably 90 percent likely,” Vonn said. “Everything happens for a reason, I’ve always believed that. … We’ll see what it means by the end of my career.”

But now, she will try to become the oldest Olympic women’s Alpine skiing medalist in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, when she will be 33.

Risk will accompany her. Dr. James Andrews, who performed the January 2014 surgery on Vonn, still checks in.

“He calls me his daredevil,” Vonn said.

There are times when the knee swells, gets sore or just plain hurts, when she skis over bumpy terrain or catches an edge on her ski. She has to warm up her knee every morning before she skis, and she still competes with a knee brace.

“I’ll probably always have to do that,” Vonn said.

Vonn said she must now weigh risk when competition conditions are not ideal, such as in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, two weeks ago, when races were ultimately canceled due to heavy snow.

“That would never have crossed my mind before these last two surgeries,” Vonn said. “If anything else happens, I’m pretty much done. That’s the risk I’m willing to take.”

What about when she’s at the starting gate, wiggling her hands around her ski pole handles seconds before she starts speeding down a mountain at 70 miles per hour? Does she fear anything then?

“Nothing,” Vonn said. “Once I make the decision to race, there’s no uncertainty. Zero fear or hesitation.”

Two years ago, the biggest storylines about Vonn were her competition with Slovenia’s Tina Maze to be the world’s best skier and whether she would be allowed to race against men.

It’s different now. Maze, who could retire after this season, is the only skier in the world who can win races in all five Alpine disciplines. Vonn may never have that kind of versatility again, but she has proven in just eight comeback races that she’s already the world’s best speed racer (downhill and super-G) again.

“I picked up right where I left off,” Vonn said Tuesday. “Maybe even a little bit better and a little bit stronger than I was before.”

Most, if not all, of Vonn’s peers are awed. That includes six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller, the greatest U.S. men’s skier in history.

“She’s just physically more dominant than any of the other girls of this era,” Miller said, according to the Denver Post. “The way she skied speed [downhill and super-G], she was able to put the edge in the snow and do things that changed the sport. The records are fine, but I would say she really changed the way women approached this sport. That’s a great legacy to have.”

Vonn, an ardent Roger Federer fan, equated it to Venus and Serena Williams.

“They changed the sport of tennis by the pure power that they brought,” Vonn said. “They just played to the best of their ability. It wasn’t something that they tried to be different. It was just who they were and who they naturally became over time. They got stronger and just started dominating.”

What will dictate how much longer Vonn competes?

She said she will continue past the 2018 Olympic season if she was close to the overall World Cup record of 86 wins held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. But records aren’t the decider.

“If I’m in too much pain, or if my knee breaks down,” Vonn said. “If I’m not enjoying it anymore. If I’m not able to ski fast, in a way that I can push myself, in a way that I can feel happy and proud of myself, then no, that’s when I will pull the plug and stop my career. I think having these last two years gives me a lot more motivation to continue as long as I can.”

Vonn eyes 3 or 4 events at World Championships

2019-20 Alpine skiing season TV schedule

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NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will combine to air every Alpine skiing World Cup race this season.

Coverage is spread among NBC, NBCSN and Olympic Channel. Every race streams live on NBC Sports Gold’s “Snow Pass.”

Mikaela Shiffrin headlines the October-through-March circuit that includes stops in the U.S. (Killington, Vt., for the women and Beaver Creek, Colo., for the men).

Shiffrin eyes her fourth straight World Cup overall title — not done by a woman in 45 years — and will likely ascend to No. 3 on the career wins list behind Ingemar Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn.

The retirements of Vonn, Marcel Hirscher and Aksel Lund Svindal leave openings for other young skiers to fill as the Winter Olympic cycle hits its midpoint.

MORE: NBC Sports Gold launches 2019-20 Snow Pass

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2019-20 Alpine skiing World Cup broadcast schedule

Date Time (ET) Event Network
Oct. 26 5 a.m. Women’s GS – Soelden NBC Sports Gold
Oct. 27 5 a.m. Men’s GS – Soelden NBC Sports Gold
Nov. 23 7 a.m. Women’s SL – Levi Olympic Channel
6 p.m.* Women’s SL – Levi NBCSN
Nov. 24 7 a.m. Men’s SL – Levi Olympic Channel
Nov. 30 12:30 p.m. Women’s GS – Killington NBCSN
2 p.m. Men’s DH — Lake Louise Olympic Channel
3:30 p.m.* Women’s GS – Killington NBC
6 p.m.* Women’s GS – Killington Olympic Channel
9 p.m.* Men’s DH — Lake Louise NBCSN
Dec. 1 12:30 p.m. Women’s SL – Killington NBC
2 p.m. Men’s SG — Lake Louise NBC
6 p.m.* Men’s SG — Lake Louise Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m.* Women’s SL – Killington NBCSN
Dec. 6 12:30 p.m. Men’s SG – Beaver Creek NBCSN
2:30 p.m. Women’s DH – Lake Louise Olympic Channel
11 p.m.* Women’s DH – Lake Louise NBCSN
Dec. 7 1 p.m. Men’s DH – Beaver Creek Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Women’s DH – Lake Louise Olympic Channel
11 p.m.* Men’s DH – Beaver Creek NBCSN
Dec. 8 1 p.m. Women’s SG – Lake Louise Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Men’s GS – Beaver Creek Olympic Channel
5 p.m.* Men’s GS – Beaver Creek NBC
6 p.m.* Women’s SG – Lake Louise NBCSN
Dec. 14 4:30 a.m. Women’s SG – St. Moritz Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s GS — Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
9:30 p.m.* Women’s SG – St. Moritz NBCSN
Dec. 15 6:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
7:30 a.m. Women’s PSL – St. Moritz Olympic Channel
8 p.m.* Women’s PSL – St. Moritz NBCSN
Dec. 17 7:30 a.m. Women’s GS — Courchevel Olympic Channe
6 p.m.* Women’s GS — Courchevel NBCSN
Dec. 20 6 a.m. Men’s SG — Val Gardena Olympic Channel
Dec. 21 4:30 a.m. Women’s DH – Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
5:45 a.m. Men’s DH — Val Gardena Olympic Channel
8:30 p.m.* Men’s DH — Val Gardena NBCSN
Dec. 22 6 a.m. Men’s GS – Alta Badia Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Women’s SC – Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m.* Women’s SC – Val d’Isere NBCSN
Dec. 23 12 p.m. Men’s PGS – Alta Badia Olympic Channel
Dec. 28 4:15 a.m. Women’s GS – Lienz NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Men’s DH — Bormio Olympic Channel
Dec. 29 4 a.m. Women’s SL — Lienz NBC Sports Gold
8 a.m. Men’s SC – Bormio Olympic Channel
Jan. 4 10 a.m. Women’s SL — Zagreb Olympic Channel
2 p.m.* Women’s SL — Zagreb NBCSN
Jan. 5 11:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Zagreb Olympic Channel
Jan. 6 1 a.m.* Men’s SL — Zagreb NBCSN
Jan. 8 2:30 p.m. Men’s SL – Madonna di Campiglio Olympic Channel
Jan. 11 5:45 a.m. Women’s DH — Altenmarkt NBC Sports Gold
7 a.m. Men’s GS — Adelboden Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m.* Men’s GS — Adelboden NBCSN
Jan. 12 3:15 a.m. Women’s SC — Altenmarkt NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Adelboden Olympic Channel
Jan. 13 1 a.m.* Men’s SL — Adelboden NBCSN
Jan. 14 12 p.m.* Women’s SL — Flachau NBC Sports Gold
Jan. 17 8 a.m. Men’s SC — Wengen Olympic Channel
Jan. 18 6:30 a.m. Men’s DH — Wengen Olympic Channel
8 a.m. Women’s GS — Sestriere Olympic Channel
8 p.m.* Men’s DH — Wengen NBCSN
9 p.m.* Women’s GS — Sestriere NBCSN
Jan. 19 5:30 a.m. Women’s PSL — Sestriere Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s SL — Wengen Olympic Channel
8 p.m.* Women’s PSL — Sestriere NBCSN
9 p.m.* Men’s SL — Wengen NBCSN
Jan. 24 5:30 a.m. Men’s SG — Kitzbuehel NBC Sports Gold
Jan. 25 3:30 a.m. Women’s DH – Bansko Olympic Channel
5:30 a.m. Men’s DH — Kitzbuehel NBC Sports Gold
9 a.m.* Women’s DH – Bansko NBCSN
Jan. 26 3 a.m. Women’s SG – Bansko Olympic Channel
4:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Kitzbuehel NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m.* Women’s SG – Bansko NBCSN
Jan. 27 1 p.m.* Men’s DH/SG – Kitzbuehel NBCSN
3 p.m.* Men’s SL – Kitzbuehel NBCSN
Jan. 28 11:45 a.m. Men’s SL — Schladming NBC Sports Gold
Feb. 1 3:30 a.m. Women’s DH — Rosa Khutor Olympic Channel
5:30 a.m. Men’s DH – Garmisch Olympic Channel
12:30 p.m.* Men’s DH – Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 2 3 a.m. Women’s SG — Rosa Khutor Olympic Channel
7:30 a.m. Men’s GS – Garmisch Olympic Channel
4 p.m.* Men’s GS – Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 8 5:30 a.m. Women’s DH — Garmisch Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s SL – Chamonix Olympic Channel
2 p.m.* Women’s DH — Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 9 5 a.m. Women’s SG – Garmisch Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s PGS — Chamonix Olympic Channel
4:30 p.m.* Women’s SG – Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 14 10 p.m. Men’s DH — Yanqing Olympic Channel
Feb. 15 7 a.m. Women’s GS – Maribor Olympic Channel
10 p.m. Men’s SG — Yanqing NBCSN
11:30 p.m.* Women’s GS — Maribor NBCSN
Feb. 16 7:30 a.m. Women’s SL — Maribor Olympic Channel
9:30 p.m.* Women’s SL — Maribor NBCSN
Feb. 21 11 p.m. Men’s GS — Naeba Olympic Channel
Feb. 22 4:30 a.m. Women’s DH — Crans-Montana Olympic Channel
11 p.m. Men’s SL — Naeba Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m.* Women’s DH — Crans-Montana NBCSN
Feb. 23 7:30 a.m. Women’s SC — Crans-Montana Olympic Channel
4:30 p.m.* Women’s SC — Crans-Montana NBCSN
Feb. 29 4:30 a.m. Women’s SG — La Thuile Olympic Channel
6:30 a.m. Men’s SG — Hinterstoder NBC Sports Gold
March 1 12 a.m.* Women’s SG — La Thuile NBCSN
3:45 a.m. Men’s SC — Hinterstoder NBC Sports Gold
8 a.m. Women’s SC — La Thuile Olympic Channel
March 7 5 a.m. Men’s DH — Kvitfjell Olympic Channel
6:30 a.m. Women’s GS — Ofterschwang Olympic Channel
March 8 12 a.m.* Women’s GS — Ofterschwang NBCSN
1 a.m.* Men’s DH — Kvitfjell NBCSN
4:30 a.m. Men’s SG — Kvitfjell Olympic Channel
6:30 a.m. Women’s SL — Ofterschwang Olympic Channel
March 9 1 a.m.* Women’s SL — Ofterschwang NBCSN
March 12 8 a.m. Women’s PSL — Are NBC Sports Gold
March 13 11 a.m. Women’s GS — Are Olympic Channel
5 p.m.* Women’s GS — Are NBCSN
March 14 10 a.m. Men’s GS — Kranjska Gora Olympic Channel
11 a.m. Women’s SL — Are Olympic Channel
March 15 3:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Kranjska Gora NBC Sports Gold
March 18 3:30 a.m. Men’s DH — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
5 a.m. Women’s DH – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m.* Men’s DH — World Cup Finals NBCSN
3:30 p.m.* Women’s DH – World Cup Finals NBCSN
March 19 4 a.m. Women’s SG – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
5 a.m. Men’s SG – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
11 a.m.* Women’s SG – World Cup Finals NBCSN
March 20 6 a.m. Team Event – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
11 a.m.* Team Event – World Cup Finals NBCSN
March 21 6 a.m. Men’s GS — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Women’s SL — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
March 22 12 a.m.* Men’s GS — World Cup Finals NBCSN
1 a.m.* Women’s SL — World Cup Finals NBCSN
6 a.m. Women’s GS — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s SL — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
March 23 12 a.m.* Women’s GS – World Cup Finals NBCSN

*Delayed broadcast

Iran banned from world judo until it agrees to face Israel

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Iran was banned from international judo competitions Tuesday for refusing to let its athletes fight Israeli opponents.

The International Judo Federation imposed an indefinite ban on Iran’s team until it promises to end a long-running boycott of Israel.

The IJF’s disciplinary commission said the ban will stand “until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and prove that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

The commission said Iran broke rules on non-discrimination and the manipulation of competition results.

The ruling comes after 2018 World champion Saeid Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in August, saying he had been ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions so as not to face Israelis.

The IJF accused Iranian government officials of putting pressure on athletes including Mollaei, who is now in hiding in Germany. Iran has already missed some events because it was provisionally suspended last month pending the full disciplinary ruling.

The IJF has previously said any measures taken against Iran won’t apply directly to next year’s Olympics, because athletes are technically entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the national judo federation.

However, qualifying for the Olympics depends in large part on world ranking points from IJF events.

Iran can appeal the IJF ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The measure comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee is pushing back against boycotts and other political demonstrations in sports.

In June, IOC President Thomas Bach criticized governments who “clearly abuse sport for their political purposes,” noting a case in May of a Tunisian court blocking four Israelis from competing at the world junior taekwondo championships.

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