Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn eyes crystal record; World Cup Finals preview, schedule

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Lindsey Vonn recently ordered a new, second trophy case to store her crystal globes, the prizes awarded to the best skiers per discipline and overall for an entire World Cup season.

Vonn has collected 17 crystal globes during her career.

“Should we only make it for 17?” the builder asked Vonn.

“No, we need to make it bigger,” replied Vonn, relaying the story to French media Monday. “I have room for 23. … I hope I can fill it up at some point.”

Vonn, who won six times this campaign, breaking the women’s World Cup career victories mark following two major knee surgeries, can match another record at the season-ending World Cup Finals in Meribel, France, this week.

She’s in position to add to her trophy case this season’s crystal globes for the downhill and super-G. That would give her 19 career season titles, matching the record held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.

Stenmark also holds the overall race victories record of 86, which Vonn may also one day take down. She’s at 65 right now.

“To be back in this position at finals is pretty damn good,” Vonn said Monday.

Here’s the World Cup Finals schedule (all times Eastern; all events streamed live on UniversalSports.com):

Wednesday — Men’s Downhill — 4:30 a.m.
Wednesday — Women’s Downhill — 6 a.m. (Vonn)
Thursday — Men’s Super-G — 4:30 a.m.
Thursday — Women’s Super-G — 6 a.m. (Vonn)
Saturday — Women’s Slalom — 4 a.m./6:30 a.m.
Saturday — Men’s Giant Slalom — 5 a.m./7:30 a.m.
Sunday — Men’s Slalom — 4 a.m./6:30 a.m.
Sunday — Women’s Giant Slalom — 5 a.m./7:30 a.m.

UniversalSports.com also has the full standings in each discipline here.

Vonn was fastest in downhill training runs Monday and Tuesday and enters the official downhill Wednesday with a 35-point lead over Austrian Anna Fenninger for the crystal globe.

If Fenninger wins the downhill race Wednesday, Vonn must finish in second place to keep the season title. Vonn won six straight downhill globes from 2008 through 2013 and is seeking to tie Annemarie Moser-Proell‘s women’s record of seven globes in one discipline.

The super-G is closer. Vonn leads Fenninger by eight points going into Thursday’s race. If both Vonn and Fenninger finish in the top four, whoever has the higher finish will take that crystal globe.

Fenninger is trying to become the first woman since Vonn to repeat as World Cup overall champion. She overtook Tina Maze in the overall standings last weekend and has a 30-point edge on the Slovenian going into this week’s four races.

Both Fenninger and Maze are strong in downhill and super-G, so the overall competition could come down to the weekend’s giant slalom and slalom. Vonn is mathematically eliminated from that race but hopes to be a factor in the overall next season.

Mikaela Shiffrin will enter the picture starting with Saturday’s slalom. The 20-year-old will clinch her third straight slalom season title if she finishes in the top 15. That shouldn’t be a problem.

Shiffrin is in third place in the giant slalom season standings and could finish as high as second Sunday. She’s shown continued improvement in her complementary discipline after finishing 19th in the standings in 2013 and seventh in 2014.

The men’s competitions for crystal globes are not as compelling.

Ted Ligety will cede his giant slalom crown to Austrian rival Marcel Hirscher, who clinched it last weekend.

Hirscher also holds a 164-point lead in the overall standings above Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, meaning the Austrian is very likely to become the first man to win four straight World Cup overall titles.

Hirscher trails German Felix Neureuther by 55 points in the slalom standings. If Hirscher wins the slalom race Sunday, Neureuther could finish fourth and still walk away with that crystal globe.

Jansrud already clinched the super-G globe, but the downhill is very much in play. He leads Austrian Hannes Reichelt by 20 points, but Reichelt would take the globe if he wins Wednesday’s race.

Julia Mancuso in Maui for World Cup Finals

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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