Ingemar Stenmark, Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn meets Ingemar Stenmark (video)

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Only one skier has more World Cup wins than Lindsey Vonn, and Vonn met him for the first time on Tuesday night.

Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark stood, surrounded by media, at the finish area of a World Cup parallel slalom race in Stockholm.

Stenmark won 86 World Cup races from 1974-89. Vonn is at 76 wins, with nine already this season, on pace to break Stenmark’s record before the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

“How’d you do it? How’d you get so many wins?” were Vonn’s first questions to Stenmark after a hug and pleasantries.

“You know that, you don’t have to ask me,” Stenmark responded, separated from Vonn by microphones. “I don’t have to chase records anymore.”

Vonn and Stenmark are vastly different skiers from vastly different eras. All of Stenmark’s wins were in slalom and giant slalom, and he spent much of his career before separate super-G races were added to the World Cup. He told Vonn he once raced a downhill, at the most famous, dangerous course in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Vonn, starstruck, then took a selfie with Stenmark.

Vonn’s best events are downhill and super-G. Her start Tuesday, eliminated in the first round of 16 in a head-to-head, bracketed format, marked her first in a slalom in more than three years. She doesn’t plan to again, partly because it hurts her surgically repaired right knee.

“When you beat my record, I will come,” said Stenmark, who does have knee surgery in common with Vonn. “When you are very close.”

“I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going to try,” Vonn said.

Earlier, Vonn sounded more confident.

“I have probably, hopefully two more seasons left, and I won nine [races] this season,” Vonn, who has a great chance to reach double-digit wins this campaign with four speed races left, said Tuesday, before the race. “I have 10 more [wins] to tie Stenmark. I think, if you’re looking at it mathematically, it looks pretty good, but anything can happen.”

Vonn is correct. In her comeback from two major knee surgeries, she’s been near her pre-injuries average wins per season — scoring eight last year and nine this year.

If the 31-year-old continues two more seasons, she will not only be on pace to break Stenmark’s record but also look to become the oldest Olympic women’s Alpine skiing medalist of all time.

Vonn, who didn’t fully commit to racing the slalom until Tuesday, didn’t enter to win so much as to accumulate World Cup points.

“Just for participating you get 15 points,” Vonn said. “I think that was what drew me to come up here.”

The 15 points could be crucial for Vonn, who is in a tight battle with Swiss Lara Gut for the World Cup overall title, the sport’s biggest prize this season with no Olympics or World Championships.

Vonn, a four-time World Cup overall champion (last in 2012), leads Gut by 23 points with 10 scheduled races left. Gut was also eliminated in the first round Tuesday.

Vonn and Gut next head to Andorra for a World Cup super-G and super combined on Saturday and Sunday.

VIDEO: Vonn reminded of Facebook gaffe at super-G finish

 

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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