Lindsey Vonn
ANA Inspiration/Kelly Kline

Lindsey Vonn details screams, ‘excruciating pain’ in season-ending crash

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Lindsey Vonn screamed as she lay motionless in the snow, her face turned away from broadcast cameras after crashing in a World Cup super-G in Andorra on Feb. 27.

“When I was laying there, I knew something bad had happened because I could feel the bone hit bone,” Vonn said in a phone interview while appearing at the ANA Inspiration LPGA major last week. “It was excruciating pain. I was laying there trying to assess in my mind how bad the injury was.”

Vonn soon learned she suffered a hairline fracture of her left tibial plateau. Determined as ever with the World Cup overall title still in play, she drained the knee (we know this from her Instagram video) and raced the following day in a super combined, finishing 13th.

Two days after that, Vonn announced the end of her season after it was found she suffered not just one hairline fracture, but three significant ones.

The decision was difficult.

Vonn had a small 28-point lead in the overall standings with eight races left, nearing what could have been her fifth World Cup overall title and first since 2013 crashes that knocked her out of the Sochi Olympics.

The 2010 Olympic downhill champ said she would have raced through this latest injury if it had been an Olympic year, further risking her skiing career and her ability to walk after she retires.

Vonn still remembers what led to the crash, more than one month removed.

“It was actually the left-footed turn before I crashed where I hit some soft snow,” Vonn said. “I could feel my bone kind of go over my tibia, which is not a great feeling. Then the next turn I fell. It wasn’t the fall itself. It was the turn before.

“I knew that something was really wrong. I’ve had enough crashes in my career to know the difference between a [minor injury] and the real injury.”

Vonn explained the difference between the Feb. 27 crash and her scarier February 2013 World Championships crash.

“When I blew out my right leg, I could definitely feel right away that my knee was loose,” Vonn said. “I didn’t feel that [Feb. 27], so I was hoping I sprained the ligament. I didn’t think that it was an ACL [injury].”

Vonn raced Feb. 28 with braces on both knees and appeared at the World Cup Finals in St. Moritz, Switzerland, two weeks later to pick up her downhill season title crystal globe wearing a black left leg brace on the outside of blue jeans.

She said last week she doesn’t think she’ll race with braces on both knees next season.

“The reason why I wore it in Andorra was I thought I had some issues with my MCL [from the Feb. 27 crash],” Vonn said, “but after I got the MRI, it was just the fracture that was causing so much pain.”

Vonn also said she’s “letting go and moving on” after Swiss rival Lara Gut reportedly questioned the seriousness of the injury after Vonn raced one day following the crash. Gut’s reported comments were made before Vonn’s season-ending diagnosis of three significant fractures.

“I just heard that she had given a television interview with not-very-respectful comments, and it was definitely disappointing that a competitor would say something like that, especially when you’re injured,” Vonn said. “She didn’t apologize, but it’s water under the bridge. I understand things happen in the heat of the season.”

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Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

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