Lindsey Vonn: This will be my final season, record or not

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NEW YORK — Lindsey Vonn said Thursday that the 2018-19 season will definitely be her final one as a ski racer, even if she does not break Ingemar Stenmark‘s World Cup wins record.

Vonn has 82 victories, four shy of Stenmark’s record.

“If I get it [the record], that would be a dream come true,” Vonn said before a speaking event for Chase Ink in Manhattan. “If I don’t, I think I’ve had an incredibly successful career no matter what. I’m still the all-time winningest female skier.”

Vonn thought this spring and summer about continuing on to 2019-20 if she doesn’t reach the record this season. In the end, her lengthy injury history made the decision for her.

“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” Vonn said. “I really would like to be active when I’m older, so I have to look to the future and not just be so focused on what’s in front of me.”

Vonn repeated in PyeongChang that she planned to retire after the 2018-19 season, but at that time it was contingent on breaking the record.

“I’m not going to quit until I get that record, that is for sure, no matter how much pain I’m in,” Vonn said after her last Olympic race, “but I really hope it only takes one more season because it would be difficult for me to continue on after that.”

Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia hopes Vonn does not retire after next season. The Italian tried to persuade Vonn in PyeongChang.

“If I physically could continue for four years, then I probably would,” Vonn said she told Goggia in February. “But four years is a really long time. She said she’s going to keep trying to convince me, but we’ll see.”

When healthy (an important two words for Vonn), she has averaged about seven wins per season in recent years.

Vonn said she plans to race every downhill and super-G until she breaks the record, and probably through the end of the season in March, but no giant slaloms or slaloms.

Her first races are the first weekend of December at her favorite course, Lake Louise in Alberta, where a perfect weekend of three wins would draw her within one of Stenmark.

Vonn will leave the sport without achieving another goal — racing against men on the World Cup.

However, she said Thursday she could still do an exhibition event. Perhaps a head-to-head format.

In the spring, Vonn tabled her proposal to the International Ski Federation (FIS) to be allowed into a men’s race this fall but tweeted, “I haven’t given up on this. Just delaying it one more year.” FIS has denied her bid in the past.

Vonn hopes her next career is more successful than ski racing. Lofty goal.

She took a business class with other professional athletes at Harvard in May, noting then she had not attended college.

Chase, too, is helping her with the transition.

“I’m at an interesting point in my career where I want to pivot into business,” Vonn said, adding she wants to expand her Lindsey Vonn Foundation, which has aided young female ski racers. “It’s important to me to have people around me that know what they’re doing. I honestly don’t know the first thing about starting a business. I just know what I’m passionate about. I’m really passionate about beauty and outerwear.”

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VIDEO: Vonn, Gus Kenworthy battle on ‘Drop the Mic’

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.

 

Mikaela Shiffrin could win historic world title, not that she’s keeping track

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Mikaela Shiffrin has spent her career breaking records.

When she claimed slalom gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, she became the youngest-ever Olympic champion in the discipline, as well as the youngest American to win gold in any alpine skiing event.

When she won the slalom at the 2017 World Championships, she became the first woman to win three consecutive world titles in the discipline in 78 years.

On Dec. 22, she notched her 50th World Cup victory, becoming the youngest skier – and also just the eighth all-time – to reach the mark.

One week later, she broke the women’s record for most career slalom wins on the World Cup circuit (she now owns 38).

So far at these 2019 World Championships, she has claimed super-G gold and giant slalom bronze.

For those who like discussing alpine skiing records, Shiffrin is a gift. With each win, we dig into the databases and comb through stats to find some new nugget of information, some fresh way of qualifying her level of success. It’s our way of providing historic context for the way a 23-year-old skier from Colorado carves turns down a snowy slope. Because while it seems obvious that what she is doing is historic, records are the result of asking the question, “Historic in what way?”

To discuss these records, we become fluent in qualifier words. Words like ‘youngest’ or ‘oldest.’ Phrases like ‘first woman’ or ‘first American.’ Qualifier words are what make records accurate, but if you add enough of them, anything can become a record.

Given Shiffrin’s age, the fact that the majority of her success has come in a single discipline (slalom), and that the United States does not boast the deepest alpine skiing team, most of her accolades and records are qualified by these terms.

But at the 2019 World Championships in Are, Sweden, there’s a different type of record on the line, a record that doesn’t have anything to do with age, gender, nationality, or discipline. That’s because no alpine skier has ever won four straight world championship titles in the same discipline.

Full stop.

Seven athletes, including Shiffrin, have won three straight world titles in the same discipline since the first world championships were held in 1931.

  • Christl Cranz of Germany won three straight in both the slalom and the combined in 1937, 1938, and 1939. Cranz won the combined again at the 1941 World Championships, but given that the competition only included Axis-friendly nations, the international ski federation cancelled the results three years later. The world alpine skiing championships then went on hiatus until 1948 due to World War II and Cranz wasn’t competing by the time they were held again.
  • France’s Marielle Goitschel also won three straight titles in the combined (1962, 1964, 1966), but she finished second behind Canadian Nancy Greene in 1968.
  • Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden claimed three straight slalom titles in 1978, 1980, and 1982. But in his attempt for a fourth straight, he instead placed fourth, 0.92 seconds behind the winner.
  • Switzerland’s Erika Hess won three straight combined titles in 1982, 1985, and 1987, but then retired from competition.
  • Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt claimed three straight in the combined (1997, 1999, 2001), but it was American Bode Miller who claimed gold in 2003, with Aamodt finishing third.
  • American Ted Ligety won three straight giant slalom titles between 2011 and 2015, but he didn’t have the chance to go for a fourth straight after injury caused him to miss the 2017 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Finally, there’s Shiffrin, who has claimed the last three world titles in slalom.

She’ll step into the start house on Saturday with the opportunity to become the first athlete to win four straight world titles in the same discipline. Not the first woman or the first American or the first in slalom. The first athlete. It’s a simple record, unencumbered by qualifier words.

But while Shiffrin is a goal setter, she isn’t a record chaser. The Colorado native has always insisted that she puts more emphasis on the way she skis than the result that appears next to her name.

“High standards, but low expectations,” she said in a media call in January. “That sort of mentality is what allows me to ski my best. If I think about the results first, I tend to kind of tighten up, and it’s not as easy.”

She emphasized this in a long Instagram post last Saturday, writing, “From the outside, people see the records and stats. As I have said, those numbers dehumanize the sport and what every athlete is trying to achieve… My goal has never been to break records for most WC wins, points or most medals at World Champs. My goal is to be a true contender every time I step into the start…”

Needless to say, Shiffrin likely isn’t entering Saturday’s slalom thinking about the historic implications of winning a fourth straight slalom title, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a significant accomplishment.

Of all the ‘firsts’ that Shiffrin has added to her resume – whether consciously or not – this one would mean something different. It would solidify her status not only as one of the greatest female skiers or greatest slalom skiers or greatest American skiers, but instead underscore the fact that she is, simply, just one of the greatest.

 

Coverage of the Women’s Slalom at the 2019 World Alpine Skiing Championships: 

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 5:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1)* NBCSN
8:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
1:00 p.m. Women’s Slalom* NBC

*Same-day delay

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