Lindsey Vonn’s comeback delayed as Alpine races canceled

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ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, Austria (AP) — Lindsey Vonn‘s return to World Cup skiing has been delayed for at least a day after snowfall forced the cancellation of downhill training and the race itself on Saturday.

Organizers moved the program to Sunday, with the race set for a 6:15 a.m. ET start (NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). A combined event, which was originally scheduled for Sunday, was canceled. Weather was forecast to improve overnight.

Also, a World Cup men’s downhill scheduled in Wengen, Switzerland, was canceled Saturday due to heavy snowfall and fog. A slalom is scheduled Sunday.

Vonn, a four-time overall champion, and American teammate Julia Mancuso planned to make their World Cup comebacks this weekend after extensive injury layoffs.

Saturday’s program was initially delayed for at least an hour as course workers were still busy moving fresh snow off the course at the scheduled start time for training, but conditions failed to improve. The snowfall would also have limited visibility for the skiers.

To shorten the distance to be cleaned, the start gate for the downhill had been lowered, which stripped the Kalberloch course of its trademark steep pitch from the initial start.

“Unfortunately the weather is not helping us,” Vonn said shortly before the race was called off for the day. “The snow is very soft. Hopefully the course workers can do something.”

Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, who won all three races so far this season to lead the downhill standings, said she “would love to race.”

“But there is a limit when you shouldn’t race anymore but stay healthy instead,” the Slovenian said.

Bad weather also canceled training for the last two days, prompting organizers to reschedule the mandatory session two hours before the race. A downhill race cannot be held without prior training.

It’s the second straight season that the event has been affected by poor weather conditions. Last year, the downhill took place on a shortened course in an unusual two-run format, which was won by Vonn.

If Sunday’s program was canceled as well, the next opportunity to race for Vonn and Mancuso will be in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where a downhill and a super-G are scheduled for next weekend.

There will be one more speed event ahead of next month’s world championships, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Jan. 28-29.

MORE: Bode Miller plans to race next season, U.S. coach says

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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