Ingemar Stenmark to Lindsey Vonn: ‘Don’t beat my record too early’

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Lindsey Vonn‘s top priority for the remainder of her career is to break the World Cup wins record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark. She is at 77 victories, nine shy of the record.

Stenmark’s goal? To hold onto the record a little bit longer.

“Keep on winning, but don’t beat my record too early,” Stenmark, in an NBCSN interview at the world championships on Tuesday, said he told Vonn on Monday. “She can beat it, but not this year. Maybe next year.”

Stenmark won his 86 World Cup races between 1974 and 1989, with 46 in giant slalom and 40 in slalom. He has said he raced one downhill — the most daunting course in Kitzbuehel, Austria — and minimal super-Gs. The super-G was not run on the World Cup until a little more than halfway into his career.

Stenmark made 231 World Cup starts, according to the International Ski Federation, and raced for the last time just before his 33rd birthday. Vonn is already at 371 starts, nearing the women’s record of 408 held by retired Austrian Renate Goetschl. Vonn turns 33 on Oct. 18.

Vonn and Stenmark first met last Feb. 23 at a World Cup race in Stockholm, where Vonn’s first question to the Swede was, “How’d you do it? How’d you get so many wins?”

On Monday, Stenmark told Vonn that if she beats his record, she also must win “Dancing with the Stars,” as Stenmark did on the Swedish version of the show in 2015.

“If you help teach me to dance for the show, it’s a deal,” Vonn told him.

This season, Vonn has one win in five World Cup races since her rushed return from breaking her right upper arm in a November training crash. She can’t reach Stenmark’s record this season — there are too few races remaining.

If Vonn goes on a winning tear in the next year, she can break the record before the PyeongChang Olympics.

MORE: Roger Federer takes in World Champs with Lindsey Vonn

Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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