Lindsey Vonn feels ‘100 percent’ heading to season debut

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn‘s healing left ankle no longer aches or gives her any sort of discomfort whatsoever when she steps into her ski boot.

The four-time overall World Cup champion pronounced she’s ”definitely 100 percent” ready for the giant slalom race in Aspen, Colorado, later this month.

Now, a new dilemma: Finding some snow. Vonn flew back from Europe for a long weekend that included a photo shoot in New York, a friend’s wedding in Vermont and the Broncos-Packers game in Denver.

With the slopes in her hometown of Vail not open — 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.8 Celsius) there Tuesday — Vonn may train at nearby Copper Mountain. Or head back to Europe. Or simply do what she’s been doing since breaking her ankle in a training crash in New Zealand nearly 12 weeks ago — working out intensely in the gym.

Bottom line: She’s raring to race.

”I have a really good feeling about this season,” Vonn said in a phone interview. ”This is going to be a really good year.”

Sitting out the season opener in Soelden, Austria, was a difficult choice for Vonn. She was on the sideline as Italy’s Federica Brignone won the giant slalom on Oct. 24, while American Mikaela Shiffrin finished runner-up. Vonn possibly could’ve given it a go, but ”I was worried that if I hit a bump or something, I would have problems. I erred on the side of caution, because I’m really happy with where I am at.”

She will also sit out a slalom event in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 14. But that’s by design since she no longer competes in the slalom.

Vonn’s keeping her goals modest this season. Well, as modest as someone can after winning a women’s record 67 World Cup races over her career. Vonn simply hopes to defend her titles in the downhill and super-G disciplines.

If it so happens, chase after her fifth big crystal globe as well, which would make the 31-year-old Vonn the oldest female skier to win the overall title. The record is held by Swiss great Vreni Schneider, who was 30 when she won in 1995.

”For me, it’s just to try to continue to win races,” said Vonn, the Olympic downhill gold medal winner at the 2010 Vancouver Games who couldn’t defend her crown in Sochi because of a knee injury. ”Because whenever I can focus on skiing and trying to win one race at a time, that’s when I accumulate the most amount of points. That always puts me in a good position for the overall.”

These days, Vonn looks around at her fellow racers and barely sees anyone she knows. Austrians Nicole Hosp and Kathrin Zettel retired this season and Tina Maze of Slovenia took a break. Last season, Vonn’s good friend Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany stepped away.

”I’m seeing more and more of my friends coming to watch the races instead of being a part of them,” said Vonn, who returned last season from serious knee injuries to break the record for most women’s World Cup wins. ”And then, some of the girls that are racing against me are literally half my age. It’s awesome.

”Don’t know if you can hear my sarcasm — really awesome,” she chuckled.

Another member of the younger generation is quickly revving up to speed as Shiffrin plans to venture into super-G events this season. Vonn’s biggest piece of advice for Shiffrin? Just keep being Shiffrin, the fearless skier who won the slalom at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, last winter.

”She’s done so much in her career already that I don’t really know if I have any advice I can give her that she doesn’t already know,” Vonn said. ”Speed skiing requires time and getting used to the tracks. It’s something I’m sure she’ll master and I have no doubt she will be successful at as well.”

As for Vonn, her confidence is soaring as she gains more trust in an ankle that no longer causes her pain.

”I’m skiing really well,” Vonn said. ”I’m 100 percent ready for the season.”

MORE: Watch Vonn go under cover as a ski mountain safety officer

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing
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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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