Lindsey Vonn halfway to overall wins record in comeback after weekend sweep

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When Lindsey Vonn returned to the Alpine skiing World Cup on Dec. 5, 2014, nearly two years and two major right knee surgeries since her last race win, she had 59 career victories and a realistic goal of breaking the women’s record of 62 career wins.

Vonn notched the 14th win of her comeback, in her 29th World Cup race of her comeback, in a super-G in Zauchensee, Austria, on Sunday. Full results are here.

Another 14 wins, and Vonn will break the overall World Cup record of 86 victories held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

That goal looks more realistic with every Vonn downhill or super-G victory by a comfortable margin, as was Sunday’s by seven tenths of a second over Swiss Lara Gut. (Though both Gut and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg were faster than Vonn at the final time split, about 20 seconds from the finish.)

“Pleasantly surprised when I got to the finish and saw I had such a big lead,” Vonn told media Sunday. “I think I skied a little bit conservatively in the middle [of the course].

“I executed the way I wanted to in the bottom, and that was the most important part of the course. I think I played my cards right.”

Vonn swept the weekend speed races after capturing Saturday’s two-run downhill by a full second. She’s won five of the season’s six downhills and super-Gs, and, dating to last season, has won the last eight World Cup speed races that she has finished.

There are 11 more speed races this season, the next a Jan. 23 downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Vonn, who has won at least six World Cup races in eight straight seasons (ignoring the 2013-14 season after her February 2013 World Championships crash), is on pace to break Stenmark’s record before the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

“The best Lindsey ever? I am definitely stronger mentally and I think I am matching my form from the 2011-12 season,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “The only difference is, I am a little bit older now, and a little bit smarter.”

Vonn captured the last of her four World Cup overall titles in 2011-12, her most successful season in victories (12) and World Cup points (1,980).

“It’s still sad, looking back at that injury,” Vonn said, according to the AP. “But I’ve learned a lot since. It was the hardest moment in my career, I lost so much time, I lost the [Sochi] Olympics. But I am proud of what I’ve done since.”

Injuries are always a concern, and Vonn did say Saturday that her knees hurt before a break in late December, about a month into her four-month season.

“I’m energized again,” Vonn said. “I feel really good mentally and physically. I think that showed in this weekend’s racing.”

More pressing than Stenmark’s mark is the biggest prize this season, the World Cup overall title. Vonn, looking to become the oldest World Cup overall champ ever, trails Gut by 38 points in the standings. That race likely won’t be decided until the World Cup Finals in March.

MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin expects to race this season

Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

Olympic Council of Asia
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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”