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Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin share jokes, peace of mind at World Cup Finals

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Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin began answering at the same time when asked at a group press conference about the meaning of this week’s World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo.

After a brief moment of confusion, Vonn, 32, lifted her microphone to her lips and ceded the floor to Shiffrin, 22.

“Beauty before age,” she deadpanned.

Shiffrin chuckled and answered the question.

“I was just going to say that ‘Dumb and Dumber’ was filmed here,” the Vail native said, drawing laughs and a smile from Vonn. “Everybody’s been talking about it. That’s unique.”

Vonn and another veteran skier on stage, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, then turned to Shiffrin and chided her for not being alive when the December 1994 film came out.

World Cup Finals races run from Wednesday through Sunday in Aspen. Vonn and Shiffrin will be skiing with less pressure than years’ past.

“It’s the end of the year,” Vonn would say Monday night. “Everyone’s kind of ready to be done, ready to celebrate.”

The World Cup Finals are the last races of the season on the men’s and women’s World Cup tours, beginning with downhills Wednesday. All races will air on NBC Sports via NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app (full schedule at the bottom).

The Finals often determine who takes home crystal globes awarded to the best skier’s per discipline and overall for the season.

But Vonn will not add to her total of 20 globes this year due to injuries that kept her off the competition slopes for November, December and half of January. She has too much ground to make up in the downhill and super-G standings.

Shiffrin is too far ahead of the competition to lose the slalom title. She mathematically clinched her fourth slalom globe in five years with her latest victory in an 11-win season Saturday.

Shiffrin has also 99-percent clinched the World Cup overall title, with a 378-point lead going into this week’s races. She will become the fifth American to take home that crystal globe, the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

With globes wrapped up, the dangling carrots for Vonn and Shiffrin this week are purely race victories.

Vonn’s events are up first, a downhill on Wednesday and a super-G on Thursday. Shiffrin’s specialties — slalom and giant slalom — are Saturday and Sunday.

Vonn will hope to add to her total of 77 World Cup wins, which is nine shy of the career record held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. A victory or two in Aspen will lessen the pressure on Vonn to catch Stenmark in the 2017-18 Olympic season.

Vonn, who has averaged about 10 wins per season when healthy, has just one victory this year, coming back from crash-caused knee and arm fractures in 2016.

Slovenian Ilka Stuhec has emerged as the world’s best speed racer, while Italian Sofia Goggia edged Vonn in the downhill and super-G at the 2018 Olympic track two weekends ago.

Shiffrin has no rival in Saturday’s slalom. She has won seven of the nine races in the discipline this season, plus her third straight gold at the world championships.

But Sunday’s giant slalom could feature an interesting head-to-head.

France’s Tessa Worley leads the season GS standings by 80 points over Shiffrin and will wrap up that crystal globe with a top-12 finish. Little intrigue there.

But Shiffrin’s GS has improved this season to the point where she could be considered a favorite to beat Worley in Friday’s race. Shiffrin has won three of the last five World Cup giant slaloms, plus took silver behind Worley at the world championships last month.

Shiffrin is about to wrap up one of the most successful seasons in World Cup history. Her 11 wins in one campaign are the most-ever by an American other than Vonn.

If Shiffrin wins both the slalom on Saturday and the GS on Sunday, she will reach 13 wins this season, only done three times by male or female skiers in World Cup history. And she would get to 33 career World Cup wins, matching Bode Miller‘s total for the second-most by an American.

Behind only Vonn, of course.

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World Cup Finals broadcast schedule
(all NBC, NBCSN coverage also streamed)

Day Time (ET) Network Event
Wednesday 12-2 p.m. NBCSN, Streaming Men’s, Women’s Downhills
Thursday 11:30 a.m. Streaming Women’s Super-G
Thursday 12-2 p.m. NBCSN Women’s, Men’s Super-Gs
Friday 12:30-2 p.m. NBCSN Team Event
Saturday 11 a.m. Streaming Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1
Saturday 12 p.m. Streaming Women’s Slalom Run 1
Saturday 12:30-2 p.m. NBC Men’s GS, Women’s Slalom Run 1s
Saturday 6-8 p.m. NBCSN Men’s GS, Women’s Slalom Run 2s
Sunday 11 a.m. Streaming Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1
Sunday 12 p.m. Streaming Men’s Slalom Run 1
Sunday 1-4 p.m. NBCSN Women’s GS, Men’s Slalom

Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic

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The 2017 World Track and Field Championships left questions that could carry over into 2019 and 2020. What does Allyson Felix have left? When will Justin Gatlin cede the world’s fastest man title? How much longer will Caster Semenya be unbeatable?

Those questions might not be answered at this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic (NBC and NBC Sports Gold broadcast schedule here), but it could be the most important meet of a year without a world championships to sort them out.

Felix races the 400m, now her trademark event after a decade as mainly a 200m sprinter, for the first time since taking bronze at worlds in London in August. She does so against the women who beat her both at worlds in London and in Rio.

Gatlin withdrew from Pre on Wednesday, but the man now seen as the heir to Usain Bolt‘s sprint throne, Christian Coleman, races the 100m for the first time since worlds, too. Coleman may have been edged by Gatlin in their one-two at worlds, but he is 14 years younger and coming off an indoor season where he ran the 60m faster than the world record three times (twice under legal conditions).

If Coleman stays fast at Pre, through the summer and 2019, we may look back on 2017 as the transition year between the retiring Bolt and rising Coleman more so than Gatlin’s return to the top.

Semenya faces all of her closest 800m rivals on Saturday, though “close” must be used loosely. Her dominance may be impacted going into next season if the IAAF’s new testosterone limits on middle-distance runners are implemented. This Diamond League season presents what could be the final opportunities for American Ajee’ Wilson and others to take on Semenya before the women’s 800m landscape changes significantly.

Eugene start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

FRIDAY
9:37 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
9:42 — Men’s Javelin
10:52 — Men’s 800m
11:06 — Men’s 2 Mile

SATURDAY
3:40 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
3:43 — Men’s Triple Jump
3:48 — Men’s International Mile
4 — Men’s High Jump
4:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
4:10 — Women’s 800m
4:18 — Men’s 100m
4:26 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:41 — Women’s 100m
4:50 — Women’s 1500m
4:58 — Men’s Shot Put
5:03 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:10 — Women’s 5000m
5:31 — Women’s 400m
5:44 — Men’s 200m
5:51 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five events to watch on Saturday:

Women’s 800m — 4:10 p.m. ET
Olympic champion Caster Semenya faces the fastest American of all time, Ajee’ Wilson, for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Semenya breezed past Wilson and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba in the final straight. Semenya is undefeated at 800m for 22 straight meets dating to September 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — 4:26 p.m. ET
First matchup between Olympic and world champion Consenslus Kipruto of Kenya and top American Evan Jager this season, and Jager’s first steeplechase anywhere since Sept. 1. Kipruto relegated Jager to silver at the Olympics and bronze at the world championships. Jager has never won a race with Kipruto in the field but does have the world’s fastest time since the Rio Games.

Women’s 100m — 4:41 p.m. ET
The top five women from the 2017 World Championships, led by gold medalist Tori Bowie and Jamaican Elaine Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio but was shockingly fifth at worlds. Thompson suffered her second 100m defeat since the start of 2016 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 4. Bowie has been absent from the Diamond League since worlds in August. Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré of the Ivory Coast and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers have a chance here.

Men’s Shot Put — 4:58 p.m. ET
Every reigning Olympic and world medalist is in this field, plus the six men who combined for the world’s 33 best outdoor throws since the start of 2013. It’s headlined by Rio gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs of the U.S. and New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh, who on March 25 matched the farthest throw in the world since 1990. Crouser defeated Walsh at the Drake Relays on April 28.

Women’s 400m — 5:31 p.m. ET
Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo go head-to-head in the 400m for the first time outside of the Olympics and world championships. Their last meeting was at 2017 Worlds in London: Miller-Uibo led Felix going into the final straight, but Felix was passed by countrywoman Phyllis Francis and Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser while Miller-Uibo stumbled and ended up behind all three of them. Pre is the outdoor 400m season debut for Felix, Miller-Uibo and Francis. Miller-Uibo has already in 2018 run the fastest times ever for 300m indoors and 150m on a straightaway.

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Katinka Hosszu, coach/husband Shane Tusup split

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Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, the Olympic and world champion in both individual medleys, is no longer working with coach and husband Shane Tusup, according to Hosszu’s Facebook.

Tusup later said in an email and on social media that the couple, who wed in 2013, would “no longer be involved, personally or professionally.”

“I would like to get ahead of the gossips, sadly Shane and I haven’t been able to resolve our personal issues, therefore we are no longer working together,” Hosszu’s post read. “I’m still preparing for the upcoming competitions while looking at my options for my support team.”

Hosszu, 29, swept the individual medleys at the last three world championships in addition to the Rio Games, making her the world’s best all-around female swimmer for the last half-decade, since turning to Tusup as her coach following a medal-less London Olympics. She also captured the 200m and 400m individual medley world records in that span.

Hosszu and Tusup’s relationship was covered by mainstream media in Rio, when Tusup’s fiery behavior, well-known on the pool deck, showed during Hosszu’s Olympic races. At the time, Hosszu defended Tusup.

They began dating as swimmers at the University of Southern California and endured difficult recent times, as Hosszu noted in a December Facebook post.

On March 29, Hosszu posted a Facebook photo with Tusup with a caption, “You and me against the World,” both of them smiling.

Hosszu last competed Dec. 21. Her name appears on psych sheets for a meet in California that starts Friday.

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