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Aksel Lund Svindal ’50-50′ on Alpine skiing return

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal’s chronically injured knee felt so terrible after last season that retirement seemed his only option.

But the Olympic downhill champion refused to give in.

Although he didn’t join his Norwegian teammates for summer training, he’s now giving himself “a 50-50 chance” of hitting the slopes again in the new season, which starts Sunday.

“The weeks after (the World Cup Finals in) Are, I decided that I cannot make a decision because that had to be a negative decision,” said the 35-year-old Svindal, a winner of two Olympic and five world titles as well as two overall World Cup championships.

His right knee suffered permanent damage in January 2016, tearing the ACL and meniscus in a spectacular crash in Kitzbuehel. Svindal returned the following season but had to quit it prematurely, having also missed the previous season after tearing an Achilles tendon while playing soccer.

In March 2018, after he completed a full season for the first time in three years and just weeks after racing to gold at the PyeongChang Olympics, his knee looked and felt like it just came out of surgery.

And it didn’t get better for the next two months.

“I could walk, but the knee always hurt,” Svindal said. “I thought, you cannot do summer training and have to take pain killers every day.”

But in June, he was able to start doing some strength training.

“It was pretty stable, and there were days the knee was quite OK,” he said.

MORE: Alpine skiing TV/stream schedule

With his career future in serious doubt, Svindal still got the support of his equipment supplier, Head, and the Norwegian ski federation. He wasn’t going to join the likes of Kjetil Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde for the usual preparation period, but would work on his own on a reduced schedule.

Otherwise his knee wouldn’t hold up, but there’s also a mental side to it.

“When you train with a group of healthy athletes, you get reminded every single day that you are injured,” Svindal said. “Doing that for the third year in a row, it gets mentally draining.”

If he returns, he will only compete in downhill and super-G races as time is lacking to put in enough giant slalom practice. He plans to compete in all speed races, including at the world championships in Are, Sweden, in February.

“That is Plan A. But there is also a Plan B. And a Plan C,” he said. “Last year I went to the limit, maybe over it. With the Olympics, you want to push a bit more, but I can’t push that much every year. I have to be a bit more careful.”

Svindal’s training usually contains of two or three days of skiing before taking a few days of rest to let the knee recover. But last week, on the Saas-Fee glacier in Switzerland, Svindal stood on skis for seven straight days, something he hadn’t been able doing for the past three years.

“It was quite positive. And if that continues into (next month’s training in) Colorado, chances are good that I can come to Lake Louise like normal,” he said, referring to the first speeds races on Nov. 24-25. “To come there and try to win, that’s where I want to be.”

His belief that he can still win races is what prevented Svindal from calling it a career.

“When you are at the start, and you know Jansrud and (Matthias) Mayer had good runs, but you also know: I am just as good and I can win,” Svindal said, “that adrenalin is still a lot of fun.”

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What to watch in Olympic sports this week

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Mikaela Shiffrin weathered a chest cold to win her third medal (and second gold) of the World Alpine Skiing Championships on Saturday.

A hectic racing schedule means she doesn’t get much of a break.

Following her performance at Worlds in Are, Sweden, Shiffrin headed to Stockholm for a city event, which involves a series of head-to-head, knockout-style races in a bracket format. That event will re-air tonight at 11:30 PM on NBCSN. The World Cup circuit continues in Switzerland for the women and Bulgaria for the men, where two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety is expected to compete in Sunday’s giant slalom.

Winter sports action continues in Seefeld, Austria, which will host the world’s top cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and nordic combined athletes at the World Nordic Skiing Championships over the next two weeks. The U.S. contingent is headlined by PyeongChang gold medalist Jessie Diggins, who won her first World Cup race of the season, an individual sprint, last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the road to Tokyo passes through New York City with the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships on Staten Island. Two Rio Olympic bronze medalists, Emma Coburn (3000m steeplechase) and Clayton Murphy (800m) headline the U.S. field, along with their Olympic teammate and 2016 world indoor high jump champion Vashti Cunningham. The event will air Saturday and Sunday on NBCSN.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Stockholm, Sweden; Bansko, Bulgaria; Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 11:30 a.m. City Event – Stockholm Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. City Event – Stockholm* NBCSN
Friday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:15 a.m. Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
5:45 a.m. Men’s Super-G Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 p.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2)* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

WORLD JUNIOR ALPINE SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Val di Fassa, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 5:00 a.m. Men’s Downhill OlympicChannel.com

BOBSLED AND SKELETON WORLD CUP — Calgary, Alberta

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 4:30 p.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
5:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:00 p.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
8:00 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Saturday 11:00 a.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
12:30 p.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:30 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
4:45 p.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Midnight Women’s Bobsled (Run 2) NBCSN
5:45 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Sunday 10:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
12:15 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
3:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
4:00 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2)* Olympic Channel
5:00 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Monday 12:30 a.m. Four-man Bobsled (Run 2) NBCSN

*Same-day delay

FENCING GRAND PRIX — Cairo, Egypt; Torino, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 6:00 a.m.  From Torino, Italy* Olympic Channel
Sunday 8:40 a.m. From Cairo, Egypt OlympicChannel.com

*Pre-recorded

FREESTYLE SKIING WORLD CUP — Tazawako, Japan; Sunny Valley, Russia; Minsk, Belarus

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 11:30 p.m. Moguls Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 3:00 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
11:00 a.m. Aerials OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Aerials* Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. Dual Moguls Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:00 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

*Same-day delay

GYMNASTICS WORLD CUP — Melbourne, Australia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 2:00 a.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 1) OlympicChannel.com
9:00 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 1)* Olympic Channel
11:00 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 2) OlympicChannel.com
Sunday 9:00 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 2)* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

LUGE WORLD CUP — Sochi, Russia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 2:30 a.m. Doubles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:50 a.m. Doubles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
5:55 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:20 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
1:30 p.m. Doubles (Run 2)* Olympic Channel
7:00 p.m. Women’s Singles (Run 2)* Olympic Channel
Sunday 1:40 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:15 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
5:00 a.m. Sprints OlympicChannel.com
7:30 a.m. Team Relay OlympicChannel.com
7:00 p.m. Men’s Singles (Run 2)* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

WORLD NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Seefeld, Austria

 

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 8:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M & W Sprint Finals Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. Cross-Country: M & W Sprint Finals* NBCSN
Friday 4:30 a.m. Nordic combined: LH Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. Nordic combined: Indiv. 10km Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
10:15 a.m. Nordic combined: Indiv. 10km NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 5:00 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
8:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final* Olympic Channel
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M & W Team Sprint Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:45 a.m. Ski jumping: Men’s LH Team Final* OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M&W Team Sprint Finals* Olympic Channel
2 p.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint* Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Team Final Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. Cross-Country: Women’s Team Sprint Final* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

WORLD PARA NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 1:00 p.m. Biathlon: Individual OlympicChannel.com
Saturday 1:00 p.m. Cross-Country Skiing: Relays OlympicChannel.com
Sunday 1:00 p.m. Cross-Country Skiing: Long Distance OlympicChannel.com

SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP — Secret Garden, China

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 1:00 a.m. Parallel Giant Slalom OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 1:00 a.m. Parallel Slalom OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

WORLD SPRINT SPEED SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Heerenveen, Netherlands

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 9:00 a.m. Day 1 NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 1* Olympic Channel
Sunday 9:00 a.m. Day 2 NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 2* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

USA TRACK & FIELD INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS — New York City, New York

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6:30 p.m. Day 2 NBCSN NBCSN
Sunday 4:00 p.m. Day 3 NBCSN NBCSN

Shiffrin wins city event, locks up World Cup slalom title

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STOCKHOLM — Mikaela Shiffrin wrapped up the season-long slalom World Cup title Tuesday, three days after winning her record fourth straight world title in the discipline. And she matched yet another record in the process.

Shiffrin won a parallel city event, defeating Christina Geiger of Germany in both runs to win the final by 0.27 seconds.

The victory gave the American two-time overall champion an insurmountable 203-point lead in the season standings with two races remaining. Her closest challenger, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, was beaten by Geiger in the quarterfinals.

“Each run I was pretty good but not always the fastest,” Shiffrin said. “But I was consistent and for tonight, that was enough. It was really fun, actually.”

It was Shiffrin’s 57th career win and 14th of the season, matching the record for most World Cup victories in a single campaign, set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in the 1990s.

Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland won the men’s event, beating Olympic champion Andre Myhrer of Sweden in the final.

Marcel Hirscher lost in the quarterfinals but the Austrian seven-time overall champion gained enough World Cup points to lock up the slalom season title.

Both Shiffrin and Hirscher have won the crystal globe for best slalom skier six times in the past seven seasons. They both missed the title in 2016, when Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen finished top of the rankings.

Beaten by Vlhova in a similar event in Oslo on New Year’s Day, this time Shiffrin took the win, but she had to overcome a tough fight with Anna Swenn Larsson in the semifinal.

Cheered by her Swedish home crowd, Larsson won the first run by 0.09 seconds, but Shiffrin edged her by 0.10 in the second run to progress with the smallest margin possible.

In the final, Shiffrin was faster than Geiger twice as the German settled for her career best result and first World Cup podium in eight years.

Shiffrin triumphed despite still suffering from the cold she also had to deal with at the worlds in Are last week.

“I skied as well as I could. Even if I was healthy, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do better. Now I have some time to really recover,” she said.

Shiffrin will sit out races in Crans Montana this weekend and Sochi next week, before returning to the circuit on March 8-9 for technical events in Spindleruv Mlyn in Czech Republic, the resort where she had her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

In the men’s event, Zenhaeusern beat Hirscher in the quarterfinal on his way to his second career victory, after also winning here last year.

Hirscher still ended up winning the season title as his two main rivals, Clement Noel and Kristoffersen, had gone out in the opening round.

“I am very happy. Winning the title today was one of the reasons for my start here,” said Hirscher, who successfully defended his world title in the discipline just two days earlier.

Noel, who won the World Cup slaloms in Wengen and Kitzbuehel last month, looked like defeating Manfred Moelgg of Italy but the Frenchman was disqualified for straddling the final gate.

And Kristoffersen, beaten by Norwegian teammate Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, has failed to go beyond the opening round of all six city events he has competed in.

The next men’s World Cup races are in Bansko, Bulgaria, from Friday through Sunday.

___

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