Lindsey Vonn
AP

Lindsey Vonn feels ‘100 percent’ heading to season debut

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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

Matthew Centrowitz redeems, Jenny Simpson upset at USATF Outdoors

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Matthew Centrowitz won his fifth U.S. 1500m title, while Jenny Simpson‘s run of four straight ended at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines on Saturday.

Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years, emerged from a bunched pack in the final 200 meters to win in 3:43.37.

The 28-year-old returned to the top after being beaten by Olympic teammate Robby Andrews last year. Centrowitz struggled with injuries and illness in 2017, including an emergency-room visit with a viral infection. At 2017 Worlds, a listless Centrowitz was last in his first-round heat and said he was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season.

Centrowitz crossed the Drake Stadium finish line Saturday afternoon, a comfortable .26 ahead of Izaic Yorks, and held his hand to his ear to mimic a phone call. He said he was sending a message for somebody, whom he would not name, to call him.

“Satisfaction out there,” Centrowitz told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “A little sense of relief, get back on top.”

Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist, was beaten by Olympic 5000m runner Shelby Houlihan for the second time this season. The Sioux City native Houlihan surged past Simpson on the final straight, just as she did at the Pre Classic last month.

“I’m totally bummed, but I guess I have a lot of practice at losing as well as winning,” Simpson told media in Des Moines. “It felt a little weird being at U.S. Championships and getting outkicked.”

Houlihan won in 4:05.48, .73 ahead of runner-up Simpson.

“I feel like she’s way ahead of me,” Houlihan said of Simpson. “She’s someone I’ve looked up to since high school.”

An American record fell Saturday. Deanna Price took the women’s hammer record back from Gwen Berry with a 78.12-meter throw, the best in the world this year.

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday on NBC (4-6 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (12:30-6 p.m.), highlighted by 200m, 5000m and 110m hurdles finals.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Results | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Also Saturday, Shakima Wimbley and Kahmari Montgomery won their first U.S. titles in the 400m.

Wimbley prevailed in 49.52, lowering her personal best by .66, tying the fastest time in the world this year and torching a field lacking the last two world champions, Phyllis Francis and Allyson Felix. Wimbley showed promise at the Pre Classic last month, finishing third behind Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Francis.

Montgomery clocked 44.58 to win, two weeks after finishing seventh at the NCAA Championships for the University of Houston. The men’s field lacked 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt and Michael Norman, the fastest man in the world this year who opted to race the 200m this week.

World-record holder Kendra Harrison repeated as 100m hurdles champion. Harrison clocked 12.46, off of her world record of 12.20. Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, who beat Harrison in Shanghai on May 12, was not in the field.

World gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs went one-two in the 3000m steeplechase. Coburn, the Olympic bronze medalist, earned her seventh national title in eight years by clocking 9:17.70. She pulled away from Frerichs on the last lap to win by .99. Nobody else finished within 15 seconds.

“[Frerichs] gave me a run for my money,” Coburn, who has been beaten by a countrywoman once in eight years, said on NBC. “This is going to be a battle that’s worth watching for years to come.”

In the pole vault, Olympic bronze medalist and world champion Sam Kendricks cleared 5.85 meters for his fifth straight U.S. title.

Vashti Cunningham repeated as high jump champion by clearing 1.95 meters. Cunningham, whose father and coach is retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, was 13th at the Olympics and 10th at the world championships.

Darrell Hill upset Olympic champion Ryan Crouser in the shot put, winning with a 21.57-meter throw. Hill improved to 3-17 against Crouser. Crouser came to Des Moines with the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws, according to Tilastopaja.org. But on Saturday he had five fouls in six throws. His only legal throw was 20.99 meters for second place.

NCAA runner-up Kenny Selmon won the 400m hurdles from lane eight against a field that lacked Olympic champion Kerron Clement. Selmon clocked 48.21 seconds, three tenths ahead of TJ Holmes, who was fifth at 2017 Worlds.

The favorites advanced to Sunday’s semifinals in the 200m and 110m hurdles, including 400m indoor world-record holder Michael Norman and Olympian Ameer Webb in the 200m and world-record holder Aries Merritt, Olympian Devon Allen and NCAA champion Grant Holloway in the hurdles.

MORE: Lyles, Norman, green teens at Olympic Trials, now stars at USATF Champs

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U.S. Open changes seeding policy for pregnancies

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Serena Williams will learn Wednesday if she is seeded at Wimbledon, while a top U.S. Open official is already reportedly saying its seeds will be revised if a return from pregnancy comes into play, though not naming Williams specifically.

The U.S. Open, the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year in September, would “revise the seedings if pregnancy is a factor in the current rankings of a player,” USTA president and chairwoman Katrina Adams said, according to The New York Times.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, was not given one of 32 seeds at the French Open in May, her first Grand Slam since coming back from having daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jron Sept. 1.

Her ranking had fallen to No. 453 due to maternity leave. She could enter the major tournament due to the WTA’s protected ranking rule, but it was up to Grand Slam organizers whether to give her a seed.

Williams reached the semifinals of her last eight U.S. Opens, missing the New York event in 2010 and 2017. She has won it six times. Her current ranking is No. 183.

If Williams neither makes a deep Wimbledon run nor plays plenty of summer hard-court matches, it’s likely the U.S. Open will have to decide whether to give her a seed. It sounds like organizers are prepared to.

“It’s the right thing to do for these mothers that are coming back,” Adams said, according to the report, adding that players should not be “penalized” for starting a family.

Williams reached the fourth round of the French Open in her first Grand Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant (but before the world learned). She withdrew before a round of 16 showdown with Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral muscle injury and has not played in a tournament since.

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