Lindsey Vonn: I’m not going for the World Cup overall title

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn has shifted focus away from winning the biggest annual prize in her sport to the continued pursuit of one of Alpine skiing’s hallowed records.

Vonn’s eyes are not set on the World Cup overall title this season, according to her Twitter account.

This is a big change from 18 months ago.

After the 2015 World Championships, the sport’s most recent major event, Vonn said her goal for the 2015-16 season was to grab her fifth career World Cup overall title, and her first since two major knee surgeries that forced her to miss the Sochi Olympics.

“My super-G and downhill’s in good form,” Vonn said in February 2015. “Now I’ve got to get my [giant slalom] back on track, and I’ll be competitive again for the overall title. That’s the goal.”

Vonn, 31, last captured the World Cup overall title in 2012. The overall title goes to the skier who compiles the most points based off finishes across all disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined.

Vonn fought hard in the 2015-16 World Cup overall chase, even racing the day after a crash that caused three fractures in her left knee.

She eventually ended her season early due to the injuries, with eight races left and a slim 28-point lead over Swiss Lara Gut. Gut would easily pass Vonn for her first World Cup overall title.

“Because I am currently leading the Overall World Cup standings, this is one of the toughest decisions of my career,” Vonn said in March, according to her social media.

Vonn’s goal this season is instead to focus on accumulating race wins. Of course, wins play a strong role in the World Cup overall title picture, but so do top-30 finishes across the board.

If Vonn is not focusing on the overall, that would give her the luxury of skipping races where she could have a low finish (a giant slalom, slalom or combined), to devote her time to her best events — downhills and super-Gs. The season starts next month, but the first downhill and super-Gs are not until December.

The top overall title contenders — Gut and Austrian Anna Veith — have been known to race four of those five disciplines.

Vonn’s pursuit of wins includes the carrot of the career World Cup victories record of 86 held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark.

Vonn won eight races in 2014-15 and nine races in 2015-16 to move to 76 career wins. If she stays healthy, Vonn can break Stenmark’s record before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

“The goal is definitely to make it to the next Olympics in South Korea in 2018, so that’s two more seasons, but I’m really hoping for three seasons, and I’ll tell you why,” Vonn said in June. “It’s because, in my final season, I would like to race against the men in one race.”

Whether Vonn makes it to the 2018-19 season, when she will be 34 years old, is largely dependent on her health, especially her knees.

“Eventually it will get to the point where, physically, there will only be one decision left to make,” she said in June. “So I have to just be prepared for that. I just hope it doesn’t come too soon.”

MORE: Vonn details her upcoming book

Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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