Lately, Lindsey Vonn is crashing more than she’s winning

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Lately, Lindsey Vonn is crashing more than she’s winning.

The most successful female ski racer of all time fell and hit the safety netting during a World Cup downhill Saturday in exactly the same spot where she crashed a day earlier in an official training session.

“I’m getting a little sore. I’m too old to be hitting the fence that hard,” said the 32-year-old Vonn, who was again fortunate to walk away without any serious injuries. “I’m happy to still be in one piece.”

It’s not like Vonn to fall two days in a row – and nearly unheard of for her to fall two days in a row in the same spot.

“It’s unusual,” U.S head coach Paul Kristofic said, adding that Vonn is still regaining her timing after an injury layoff. “But she’s pushing hard. She wants to win the race and she knows she has the speed to do it and she’s taking some risks. When you’re pushing, sometimes things can go wrong and there’s also the element that (she) hasn’t had a lot of time on long skis at high speed.”

Defending overall champion Lara Gut of Switzerland won her first downhill of the season, finishing 0.05 seconds ahead of Sofia Goggia of Italy and 0.47 in front of Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

Having won a downhill last weekend in just her second race back from nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries, Vonn was expecting to add to her record total of 11 wins in Cortina.

Vonn’s boyfriend, football coach Kenan Smith, was attending his first ski race in Europe.

Two years ago, Vonn broke Annemarie Moser Proell‘s circuit-wide record of 62 wins in Cortina, and the Italian resort is also where Vonn earned her first podium result 13 years ago.

But Vonn hasn’t been able to negotiate a tricky jump and left turn that takes skiers from bright sunshine to dark shade on the upper section of the Olympia delle Tofane course.

“I felt like I was going pretty fast so I slowed myself down,” Vonn said. “When I landed, there was a little bit of a bump and my outside ski caught. I did the splits and went straight into the fence.”

It was only Vonn’s fourth race back since fracturing her left knee in a super-G crash in Andorra last February. The American was planning to return in November but then broke her upper right arm in a training crash at Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Vonn called her return from the nerve damage in her arm the “hardest recovery of my career,” revealing that she couldn’t even move her fingers soon after surgery.

Vonn also missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics after tearing up her knee in a crash at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, Austria.

In between the crashes, however, Vonn has built up her win total to 77 – well within striking distance of Ingemar Stenmark‘s men’s record of 86.

“She doesn’t have a lot of fear – or any fear, really,” Kristofic said. “Her focus is to go out there and to try to beat everybody and ski to the maximum of what she’s able to and at times things do go wrong when that happens. But that’s a risk she’s willing to take.”

Collecting herself after her latest crash, Vonn skied down to the finish area. She had already had a small bobble earlier in her run but was 0.18 ahead of Gut at the first checkpoint just before her crash.

“That’s a point where you simply need the right timing,” Gut said. “If you jump a little too much to the right or to the left it becomes difficult. You go into the darkness for a moment.

“The important thing is that she’s OK,” Gut added.

Vonn was still planning to race a super-G on Sunday as she prepares for the upcoming world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

“I’m OK. I’m a little sore but hopefully I’ll be fine for tomorrow,” Vonn said. “It just wasn’t my day today, or yesterday for that matter, but that’s ski racing.”

Gut, meanwhile, is rounding into top form just before the home-snow worlds.

The victory reduced Gut’s deficit in the overall standings behind American leader Mikaela Shiffrin to 30 points.

Goggia had the Italian crowd going wild before Gut came down and silenced the fans with a perfect performance on the lower section, which is full of curves.

As usual, the Cortina course was bathed in sunshine and skiers hit speeds of 120 kph (75 mph) in the Tofane schuss, a narrow chute between two walls of rock.

“There’s not a place in world where the slope is so (well) prepared,” Gut said. “I wish we had more places like Cortina. It’s just cool.”

 

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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