Lindsey Vonn returns to World Cup, but winning is not priority

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BAD KLEINKIRCHHEIM, Austria (AP) — After a four-week break from racing, Lindsey Vonn is returning to the Alpine skiing World Cup this weekend with an unusual mindset.

For the most successful female skier of all time, Vonn’s main priority at the first speed events of 2018 won’t be winning.

With only 40 days left until her season highlight, the Olympic downhill in PyeongChang, avoiding injuries is all that matters.

“I feel solid but my focus this season is on the Olympics. So I am not going to risk anything this weekend,” Vonn told The Associated Press on Friday after taking part in a shortened training session.

She was worried because the snow on parts of the Karnten-Franz Klammer course was still too weak after heavy rain this week and mild temperatures.

“The top is good, but the bottom is not safe to race,” she said.

Organizers swapped the program for this weekend by pushing back the downhill to Sunday and rescheduling a super-G for Saturday, as a downhill can be staged only after competitors have at least one training run on the entire course.

The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of each race at 4:30 and 5 a.m. ET, respectively, on Saturday and Sunday. It will also stream on the Olympic Channel app and OlympicChannel.com.

“I am also not sure why the super-G is first,” Vonn said. “Considering the snow conditions, it would be better to do the downhill first but, again, I don’t know. We haven’t inspected the bottom part of the course so I am not really sure what the reason behind it is.”

Vonn said she would make her own decision about racing or not after checking the course on Saturday, saying she would rather sit it out “if conditions aren’t good enough to run.”

Vonn badly injured her right knee landing in a patch of soft snow during the 2013 World Championships, which ultimately ruled the 2010 Olympic downhill champion out of the Sochi Games the following year.

It explains the 33-year-old American’s cautiousness going into what likely will be her last Olympics.

Her season so far has been rather rough.

Trying to improve her ranking ahead of the Olympic giant slalom, she failed to qualify for the second run of the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 28.

Focusing on the speed events since, she landed in the safety netting at full speed during the first downhill in Lake Louise on Dec. 1, and finished only 12th in another downhill the next day.

She crashed again in a super-G on the third day of racing at the Canadian resort where she won 18 times in the past.

A week later, she jarred her back in a super-G in St. Moritz, Switzerland, completing the race in pain in 24th place.

Vonn hasn’t raced since Dec. 16 when she earned her 78th career win at a super-G in Val d’Isere, France.

The following day, she took part in the early morning inspection for another super-G at the resort but then decided against racing, citing a sore knee, and flew home.

“The last race in Val d’Isere I skied very well,” she said. “It still wasn’t my best but I had a good block at home in Colorado. I was able to do a lot of condition training and got some GS and slalom in as well.”

Vonn practicing slalom underlined her ambition to start in the Olympic super combined as well.

“I feel good, definitely,” Vonn said, adding the knee was hampering her “not more than usual. I feel decent.”

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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