Lindsey Vonn plans to race 3 or 4 times at World Championships

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn plans to enter at least three of a possible five individual races at the World Championships in two weeks — the downhill, super-G, giant slalom and possibly the super combined.

Vonn, 30, has won four times in eight races since December, her first competitions in nearly one year following a second major right knee surgery that forced her to miss the Sochi Olympics.

She appears a gold-medal favorite in the downhill and potentially the super-G, depending on how this weekend’s downhill and super-G in St. Moritz, Switzerland, turn out.

The World Championships are in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo., from Feb. 2-15 with record coverage on NBC, NBC Sports Network, Live Extra and Universal Sports.

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Vonn hasn’t raced anything other than downhill and super-G since Jan. 26, 2013 — no giant slalom, no slalom, no super combined.

She does expect to race giant slalom at Worlds, on top of downhill and super-G. If she does, she will almost surely be racing against a field that includes Mikaela Shiffrin for the first time since before Vonn’s crash at the February 2013 World Championships. Shiffrin is ranked third in the World Cup giant slalom standings.

Vonn, a four-time World Cup overall champion, was second in the World Cup giant slalom standings in 2012 and third in the slalom in 2009. She recently cast doubt she would ever race slalom again, a discipline in which she has not made a World Cup podium since 2009.

Vonn won a World Cup super combined every season from 2008 through 2012, and she hopes to race it at Worlds. Super combined is a mix of one downhill run and one slalom run.

She said the Worlds super combined is “a little bit up in the air” because she hasn’t skied slalom in 2 1/2 years.

Vonn said she is unlikely to race in the World Championships team event.

In 2013, Vonn raced once at the World Championships, crashing in the super-G and requiring the first of her two major knee surgeries.

In 2011, Vonn raced twice at the World Championships, winning downhill silver and placing seventh in the super-G before ending her competition due to symptoms from a pre-Worlds concussion.

In 2010, Vonn raced all five events at the Olympics, winning downhill gold and super-G bronze. She did not finish in the giant slalom, slalom and super combined.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

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.”