Anna Fenninger
AP

Anna Fenninger out for season after crash

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Anna Fenninger, the two-time reigning World Cup overall champion, is out for the season after suffering major knee injuries in a training crash Wednesday, according to Austria’s ski federation.

Fenninger, 26, suffered a tear of the collateral and the anterior cruciate ligament of her right knee and a tear of the patellar tendon and required surgery, according to the International Ski Federation.

Fenninger is the Olympic super-G champion and the World champion in the super-G and giant slalom.

She had aimed this year to join Lindsey Vonn as the only women since 1992 to win three straight World Cup overall titles.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup season will start without Fenninger on Saturday with a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria.

Fenninger and Mikaela Shiffrin tied for the victory in Soelden last year, marking Shiffrin’s first World Cup giant slalom win.

The biggest prize in Alpine skiing this season is the World Cup overall title, given there are no World Championships or Olympics.

Now, the women who finished first and second in the World Cup standings the last three seasons are all not competing this season — Fenninger, Tina Maze (on a break this year) and Maria Hoefl-Riesch (retired).

Vonn (1,087 points) and Shiffrin (1,036) are the only returning skiers who tallied more than 1,000 World Cup points last season, accumulating results across all disciplines on the October-to-March tour.

The next-best returning skier is Swedish slalom specialist Frida Hansdotter, who had 679 points.

If one extracts the finishes of Fenninger, Maze and the retired Nicole Hosp and Kathrin Zettel from last season’s World Cup races, Vonn would finish with 1,170 points and Shiffrin would finish with 1,149 points.

Vonn, who turned 31 on Sunday, has said her goal this season is to earn a fifth World Cup overall title. She hasn’t taken the crown since 2012, one year before the first of her two major knee surgeries that kept her from defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.

Vonn reportedly said Monday that she is “more likely than not” to skip Soelden, after fracturing an ankle in an August training crash.

Vonn can become the oldest women’s World Cup overall champion ever this season. She can also move within one overall title of the record six held by retired Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll.

To compete with Fenninger, Vonn likely needed to become more proficient in giant slalom races this season (all of her eight wins last year came in downhill or super-G), but perhaps now she can contend for the overall even if she is not particularly strong in a third discipline.

The same goes for Shiffrin, who has won every slalom title the last three seasons and is improving in giant slalom but has never raced a World Cup downhill, super-G or combined.

Shiffrin, for the second straight year, hopes to make her World Cup super-G debut. Last season’s plan was scrapped after a slow start to her season in slalom.

Shiffrin, while famous for saying after becoming the youngest Olympic slalom champion in Sochi that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018, has more realistically said she doesn’t want to contest the speed events of super-G and, later, downhill if the additions could jeopardize her prowess in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom.

If Shiffrin wins the World Cup overall title, she would be the youngest to do so since Janica Kostelic in 2001.

MORE ALPINE SKIING: Upcoming milestones for Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin

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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