Lindsey Vonn becomes oldest female World Alpine Skiing Champs medalist

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Frustration was evident in Lindsey Vonn when she finished her downhill run at the world championships on Sunday, nearly a half-second behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec.

Ninety minutes later, she said her bronze medal felt like gold.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a medal at worlds, but it was certainly not the color she planned. Austrian Stephanie Venier took silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, four tenths behind the pre-race favorite Stuhec. Vonn was .45 back.

“Not bad for an old lady,” Vonn joked.

Full results are here. NBC will air coverage Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s been a difficult season,” Vonn said on Eurosport about 45 minutes after her run, before watching the men’s downhill with Roger Federer in the stands. “I’m very thankful for a medal. Now I have a medal in downhill [at worlds] in every color, pretty damn cool. … All things considered, it was a really great performance.”

There is a lot to consider.

Vonn’s return from major injuries to make the podium (and win on the World Cup) at age 32 is the latest impressive feat in her career, the greatest in women’s Alpine history.

Vonn came to St. Moritz unable to put her hair in a ponytail with her injured right hand, a lingering immobility after breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Vonn, who also suffered three knee fractures in a Feb. 27 race crash, called the arm injury the most painful of her career.

She skied out of the opening super-G on Tuesday, struggling to hold onto her right ski pole with that hand. She then taped her glove to her pole for the super combined on Friday, when she finished fifth (but was a disappointing sixth after the downhill portion).

Vonn’s bronze on Sunday meant she repeated her results from the 2015 Worlds at home in Vail, Colorado (albeit mismatching the placements and races). Two years ago, she tearfully said she “didn’t live up to expectations.”

There were no tears in the TV interview Sunday. She played into the joke when 2000 Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards called her “the most matured” women’s medalist in worlds history.

“Yes, I am old,” she said after a laugh. “Actually, it’s a fun position to be in. A lot of these girls, they’re babies. It’s cool. A lot of them look to me for advice. Being a veteran, it’s not that bad. I know what I’m doing.”

Vonn’s medal is the first for the U.S. at these worlds. So far it has been the worst performance for the American team at worlds since 1999, when they went medal-less as host in Vail. It is a reminder of the lack of young talent besides World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin, who starts Thursday in the giant slalom and Saturday in the slalom in St. Moritz.

Bode Miller hasn’t raced in two years and may never again. He’s commentating for NBC in St. Moritz. Ted Ligety is out for the season due to back surgery after requiring knee surgery last year. Julia Mancuso was on the worlds team but will not race in St. Moritz, still not ready to come back from November 2015 hip surgery.

Miller, Ligety and Mancuso are all older than Vonn.

Vonn will reset her sights on the World Cup tour with two downhills left this season on March 4 and March 15. The biggest remaining goal of her career is to snatch the record for World Cup victories. She has 77. Only Swede Ingemar Stenmark has more with 86.

Vonn returned from the arm injury four weeks ago, and with little training, won her second race. However, her other four World Cup results were a ninth, 12th, 13th and a DNF.

“Nothing has been easy for me the last five years,” said Vonn, who missed the Sochi Olympics due to knee surgery. “No matter what obstacle I face, I feel like I can overcome it.”

With Vonn largely out, the 26-year-old Stuhec has been the phenom of the World Cup season, winning the first three downhills and tacking on super-G and super combined victories for good measure. Her ski technician is her mom.

It took the 2007 and 2008 World junior champion 113 World Cup starts to notch her first podium this season. Now, Stuhec is unquestionably the world’s best downhiller. It’s on Vonn to reclaim that crown in one year in PyeongChang.

“My way here was not easy at all,” said Stuhec, who bowed and rested her arms on the podium before climbing onto the top step and then cried during her national anthem. “Now, I say to myself, I’m a world champion. It’s really something big.”

MORE: Alpine Worlds broadcast schedule

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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