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Top U.S. skier grapples with fear, doubt after latest, most difficult injury

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U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Laurenne Ross is reminded every time she looks into a mirror. Of that crash 19 years ago.

“My cheek was basically torn off of my face, and I had a serious concussion,” Ross said. “I had over 100 stitches in my cheek.

“To see these scars as a positive part of who I am has taken my whole life, and I’m still working on it.”

Ross was introduced to skiing at 18 months old by her father, a former Canadian ski racer.

Since 2006, the Oregonian has shattered her pelvis and dislocated her shoulder ten times. She blew out her left ACL in 2008. She has broken a lot of bones in her hands and wrists. A labral tear in her hip. Concussions. A few bulging discs. Two severe ankle sprains. Add multiple severe facial lacerations, accumulating more than 200 stitches in her face.

Then came March 27. Another crash at the U.S. Championships in Sugarloaf, Maine. She blew out her right knee.

“This specific injury,” said Ross, on crutches four weeks later and overcome with emotion, “is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through.”

The 28-year-old Ross is the second-best speed racer on the U.S. team behind Lindsey Vonn.

Her last two seasons have been the best of her eight-year World Cup career.

Nine top-10 finishes in 2015-16. Another seven this past season. She was fifth in the world championships downhill and fourth in the downhill at the Olympic test event in South Korea.

Ross made her first Olympic team in Sochi, where she was 11th in the downhill. She was shaping up for medal contention in PyeongChang until that March 27 crash. A podium is still possible next February, but it will take an incredible climb.

Ross wrote that not being able to ski again is “a real possibility” in a passionate blog post titled “My First Steps,” published six weeks after the crash.

“With this injury (as with many) has come so many questions, concerns, doubts, considerations,” she wrote. “What if I can’t get strong enough to return to the level of skiing I was maintaining before my crash? What if I get back on skis and am stricken with doubt, crippled by fear? What if…what if I can’t even ski again? Though it’s unlikely, it is a real possibility. And then…what? Although I have deliberated on this before, never have I done so so thoroughly.”

Ross has the whole offseason to think deeply. The 2017-18 season’s first speed races will likely be in late November or early December.

“I want to be the one who decides when I’m done ski racing,” Ross wrote. “I don’t want my body to hold me back, or the [U.S.] Ski Team to make that decision for me. I want to leave on my own terms. And I don’t think I’m ready to do that yet….But what if I don’t have a choice? What if I’m forced to move on by the powers that be? How do I come to terms with that?”

Ross has interests outside of skiing. She journals daily, knits and can play the piano, guitar, violin and cello. She takes classes at the University of Oregon after each season, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She jokes her hope is to graduate within the next 10 years.

“I feel like I am my truest self when I’m on my skis,” Ross said last month, adding later on her blog, “This break from skiing is only going to make me miss it more, make me hungry, and make me fierce. But if it doesn’t work out, there is another endeavor waiting for me — waiting for all of us — when this one comes to an end.”

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Mondo Duplantis, Elaine Thompson-Herah win to end Diamond League season

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Mondo Duplantis completed one of the greatest seasons in track and field history, under some of the most unusual circumstances for much of the year, by winning the last Diamond League meet of 2020 in Doha on Friday.

Duplantis outdueled pole vault rivals Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie in the Qatari capital, the site of his last defeat to Kendricks at the 2019 World Championships.

Duplantis, who was raised in Louisiana and competes for his mother’s birth country of Sweden, won on countback with a 5.82-meter clearance.

Back in February, the 20-year-old Duplantis twice raised the world record at indoor meets, ultimately to 6.18 meters. Eight days ago, Duplantis cleared the highest outdoor height in history, taking Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka off the record books.

Full Doha results are here.

While the Diamond League is finished for 2020, one major event in the sport remains this year — the London Marathon on Oct. 4 at 2 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

The two fastest men in history, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, headline the fields on an adapted looped course.

In other events Friday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri surged to the lead after the bell in a 3000m that included five women who won 2019 World Championships medals across four different events. Obiri clocked 8:22.54 in the non-Olympic event, holding off world 10,000m bronze medalist Agnes Tirop and world 3000m steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech.

Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah won the 100m in 10.87 seconds, eight days after clocking the fastest time in the world this year of 10.85.

Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio, has traded world-leading times with countrywoman and 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champ Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce the last two seasons.

Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon made a rare 800m start, winning in a personal-best 1:57.68. The only woman to run faster over the last two years is double Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, who is now barred from events from the 400m through the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures.

Aaron Mallett won the 110m hurdles in a personal-best 13.15 seconds, making him the third-fastest American over the last three years behind Grant Holloway and Daniel Roberts. The top three at Olympic Trials next June make the Tokyo team.

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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