Lindsey Vonn avoids serious injury in training crash

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — Lindsey Vonn avoided more serious injury when she fell and crashed into the safety netting during a World Cup downhill training session Friday.

The American, who returned this month from nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries, lost control after getting too much air at a tricky left turn on the upper portion of the Olympia delle Tofane course.

After pausing to collect herself, Vonn skied down to the finish area.

“I just caught a lot of air off this jump between the turns and I landed and hit another bump and just went in the fences in a little bit,” Vonn said. “But I’m fine.”

Vonn added that her right arm — the same one she broke in a training crash in Copper Mountain, Colorado, in November — “might be a little sore tomorrow.”

Vonn is slated to race in a downhill on Saturday (4:30 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app; 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) and a super-G on Sunday (5:30 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app; 5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Vonn holds the resort record of 11 wins in Cortina.

Italian veteran Elena Fanchini fell in the same spot, also without serious consequences.

Vonn was only 0.11 seconds behind then-leader Ilka Stuhec at the first interval, right before she went down as the course went from bright sunshine to shade.

“That’s not what makes it tricky,” Vonn said of the change of light. “It’s there’s a bit of a lip there and some people are catching a lot of air, some people are catching no air. I got like 20-25 meters (yards) and I just didn’t have enough time to land it and had to make the switch right away and there just wasn’t enough time before I hit the fence.”

Vonn discussed the terrain with International Ski Federation race director Jean-Philippe Vulliet.

“Tomorrow with race speeds I’m going to fly even farther, so I think they should just clean that up a little bit it should be perfect for the race,” the four-time overall World Cup champion said.

Verena Stuffer of Italy led the training session, 0.05 ahead of defending overall champion Lara Gut and 0.34 in front of Sofia Goggia.

Stuhec, who leads the downhill standings with three wins this season, was fourth.

Julia Mancuso, another American standout who is returning from hip surgery, struggled in 47th position, nearly 4 1/2 seconds behind Stuffer.

“It’s hard to get back in the middle of the season,” Mancuso said, adding that she’s still regaining strength in her right hip. “I still have a long way to go before I’m 100 percent strong and ready to compete for the top step of the podium. But you have to start somewhere.”

Mancuso has claimed one win and six second-place results in Cortina over her career. But she has not raced since March 2015.

“I think I’m ready for the super-G,” she said. “I’m going to talk to my coaches about (the downhill). The high speed is really demanding. I don’t want to compete until I’m actually ready to compete and be in there.”

For the U.S. team, this is the final weekend of qualifying for next month’s world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Unless the coaches select her based merely on experience — she has won nine medals at the Olympics and worlds — Mancuso needs a solid result this weekend to make the team.

“I hope that I can get a chance to improve and show that I’m ready to fight and be competitive with a little more training,” Mancuso said.

Vonn, meanwhile, is aiming to win after claiming a downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, last weekend in just her second race back.

“It’s been a while since I crashed in a downhill training run but I’m glad that it’s just training,” Vonn said. “I’ve had so much success on this hill I’m not really worried about not having a training run today. I know this hill, I know what to do and I have confidence now. I just need to do some therapy, reset and be ready for tomorrow.”

MORE: Shiffrin, seeking title, makes rare start with Vonn

FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”