Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin lead World Alpine Skiing Championships women’s preview

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Lindsey Vonn will ski for medals for the first time in two years next week, following two crashes, two major knee surgeries and one missed Olympics.

She won’t be alone in the spotlight at the first World Alpine Skiing Championships in the U.S. since 1999. Mikaela Shiffrin is a gold-medal favorite, like Vonn, but specializing in different events. Julia Mancuso will look to extend her record of global championship success, unmatched among American women.

The world’s best skiers will invade Beaver Creek, Colo., a group that includes the last two World Cup overall champions — Tina Maze and Anna Fenninger.

Here’s the schedule (all ET):

Tuesday, Feb. 3 — Super-G, 1 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 12:55)
Friday, Feb. 6 — Downhill, 1 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 12:55)
Monday, Feb. 9 — Super Combined Downhill, noon (Universal Sports)
Monday, Feb. 9 — Super Combined Slalom, 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 4)
Thursday, Feb. 12 — Giant Slalom Run 1, 12:15 p.m. (Universal Sports at noon)
Thursday, Feb. 12 — Giant Slalom Run 2, 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 4)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — Slalom Run 1, 12:15 p.m. (Universal Sports at noon)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — Slalom Run 2, 4:15 p.m. (NBC, Live Extra at 4:30)

Full broadcast schedule

Here are five skiers to watch:

Lindsey Vonn
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Five wins in 10 races (all downhill and super-G); leads downill and super-G standings
2014 Olympics: Did not compete (injury)
2013 World Championships: DNF in super-G (crash)

Vonn hasn’t come out of a World Championships healthy since 2005. In 2007, she crashed in a slalom training run and suffered a season-ending ACL sprain. In 2009, she sliced open her right thumb on a broken champagne bottle after winning the downhill. In 2011, she ended her Worlds after two races due to post-concussion effects. In 2013, that crash in the opening super-G.

So Vonn will hope for better at home, with Tiger Woods slated to appear amid a busy golf schedule. Vonn is the favorite in the opening super-G and the downhill, especially having trained on the course much more than top rivals Tina Maze, Anna Fenninger and Lara Gut (though Vonn has yet to *race* there).

She hasn’t raced anything other than downhill and super-G in more than two years, so her chances in the giant slalom and, possibly, the super combined aren’t clear.

Vonn talks fear, risk, future ahead of World Championships

Mikaela Shiffrin
Possible events: Giant Slalom, Slalom
2015 World Cup: Three wins in 10 races (all giant slalom and slalom); second in slalom standings, third in giant slalom standings
2014 Olympics: Gold in slalom, fifth in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: Gold in slalom, sixth in giant slalom

Also skiing at home, Shiffrin will be very familiar with her schedule. It’s the same two races she’s done exclusively on the World Cup and at the World Championships and Olympics the last two years.

The 19-year-old overcame an early season slump and won two of her last three races going into Worlds. That affirmed her favorite status in the slalom, barely over a group that includes the World Cup slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter of Sweden. Shiffrin will try to become the second woman since World War II to successfully defend a World title in that event, joining the Croatian legend Janica Kostelic.

Shiffrin is also a medal threat in giant slalom, with the last two World Cup overall champions Tina Maze and Anna Fenninger. Italian Deborah Compagnoni is the only woman to sweep the slalom and giant slalom at a World Championships in the last 30 years.

As with the Olympics, we won’t see Shiffrin race until the second week of the competition.

Video: Shiffrin comes up just short in last race before Worlds

source: Getty Images
Tina Maze won three medals at the 2013 World Championships. (Getty Images)

Tina Maze
Possible events: Everything
2015 World Cup: Three wins in 20 races; overall standings leader, top five in every discipline
2014 Olympics: Gold in downhill, giant slalom; fourth in super combined; fifth in super-G; eighth in slalom
2013 World Championships: Gold in super-G; silver in super combined, giant slalom; fifth in slalom, seventh in downhill

These may be the final World Championships for the Slovenian who fancies singing. Maze, 31, has said she will not ski at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and will decide after this season whether to continue competing at all.

She would be leaving at or near the top of the sport. Maze, two years removed from perhaps the greatest season in World Cup history, will likely win the World Cup overall title again this season.

It wouldn’t be a shock if she collects medals in all five World Championships races, which no woman has ever done (one man has, Norway’s Lasse Kjus in 1999).

Anna Fenninger
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Seven podiums in 14 races; second in overall standings
2014 Olympics: Gold in super-G; silver in giant slalom; eighth in super combined; DNF in downhill
2013 World Championships: Bronze in giant slalom; 11th in downhill; DNF in super-G, super combined

Fenninger is five and six years younger than Vonn and Maze. She is the future of the speed events along with Swiss Lara Gut. Fenninger hasn’t won since the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, but she finished second in each of the last three races.

Austria is the most successful nation in ski racing history, and she is its female star following the retirement of slalom ace Marlies Schild. She has more Twitter followers than Shiffrin and Maze but is certainly not as recognized, especially among the U.S. audience.

Julia Mancuso
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: One podium in 13 races
2014 Olympics: Bronze in super combined; eighth in downhill, super-G; DNF in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: Bronze in super-G; fifth in downhill; eighth in super combined; 22nd in giant slalom

Incredibly, Mancuso has more combined Olympic and Worlds medals (nine in 36 races) than World Cup wins (seven in 392 races). Even though she isn’t in the top five of any World Cup discipline this season, Mancuso is a definite medal threat in multiple events at Worlds. Bode Miller is the only U.S. skier with more combined Olympic and Worlds medals, with 11.

World Championships men’s preview

Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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