Getty Images

Lindsey Vonn moves up season debut to Saturday

1 Comment

Lindsey Vonn, who originally planned to make her season debut in December, instead plans to race on Saturday in the World Cup season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria (6:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel).

That’s provided conditions are safe. Watch her announcement here.

“I didn’t race any GS last year because of my [broken] arm injury, but I skied really well this summer in New Zealand,” Vonn said Thursday. “I feel like I’m in good enough shape, and it’s a good opportunity. See what happens.

“The biggest thing this season is staying healthy. So I really don’t want to take any chances. I just want to ski solid. My solid skiing is enough to get in the top 15. That’s all I really need.”

It will mark Vonn’s earliest start to a season since before her recent series of major injuries that began at the February 2013 World Championships, forcing her to miss defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.

Vonn originally planned to begin her lead-up to PyeongChang the first weekend of December with speed races (downhill, super-G) at her favorite venue of Lake Louise, Alberta.

Vonn last raced giant slalom Jan. 30, 2016 and last won a GS on Dec. 12, 2015, her only finish better than fifth in a GS since January 2013.

She last raced Soelden, the annual World Cup opener in late October, in 2012. Vonn won Soelden in 2011, but giant slalom is not one of her better disciplines.

“Before I was injured, the season before I won a GS [in 2012], so I know that I can ski well,” Vonn, who owns four career World Cup GS wins, said in April. “It’s just a matter of if I have a healthy prep period I can train it.”

The Soelden favorites are world giant slalom gold and silver medalists Tessa Worley of France and American Mikaela Shiffrin.

Vonn, Shiffrin and German Viktoria Rebensburg are the only women in Saturday’s field who have won Soelden. (Update: Swiss Lara Gut, like Vonn, surprisingly announced she will race Saturday. Gut, a two-time winner in Soelden, is returning from suffering a torn ACL with meniscus damage in February.)

Vonn said in April that she intended to race the giant slalom at her likely final Olympics in February. The Olympic schedule makes it more enticing.

The women’s technical events of giant slalom and slalom are in the first week of the PyeongChang Winter Games. The downhill and super-G are in the second week.

“It’s going to be good for me to get over there early, get settled in, get one race under my belt,” Vonn said in April.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Vonn’s top downhill rival likely out of Olympics

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

Leave a comment

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!