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

Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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