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Lindsey Vonn delays retirement after training crash

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Lindsey Vonn is pushing back her retirement by eight months after a training crash and knee injury kept her from competing at her favorite venue this week.

Vonn, who said last month that she would retire after this season ends in March, now plans to race at one World Cup stop next season at Lake Louise, Alberta, traditionally held the first weekend of December.

“I’m thinking at this point that I need to come back,” Vonn said in a video published Friday. “I know I’ve said many times that I’m not going to come back because my body can’t handle it anymore, but I was also planning on racing Lake Louise.”

Vonn said she sprained a ligament, bruised a bone and hyperextended a knee in a Nov. 19 training crash. She announced last week that the injury will prevent her from her planned season debut in Lake Louise this weekend.

In Friday’s video, Vonn said she would probably be able to compete in a few weeks. That means she will likely miss the first six of 17 scheduled speed races this season, also sitting out downhills and super-Gs in Switzerland and France the next two weekends. The first speed races of 2019 are Jan. 12-13 in Austria.

The absence hurts her chance of breaking the World Cup career wins record of 86 held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn is four wins shy. When healthy, Vonn has averaged about seven wins per season in recent years.

Vonn has experienced the most success at Lake Louise, winning 18 times in 44 World Cup starts. It’s such a strong record that many have dubbed the venue Lake Lindsey.

“Whether I break the World Cup win record or not … if I don’t break it at the end of this year, it doesn’t matter,” Vonn said. “That really has nothing to do with me wanting to race in Lake Louise again. For me, Lake Louise has always been my spot.

“The whole point of having one last season is to have one last season, to race in every single race one last time, to make those final memories, and because I’m injured now, I can’t have that. I feel like I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t take that one last chance to push out of the starting gate in Lake Louise.”

Vonn said she cried in the hospital room after learning she would not race in Lake Louise this week.

“Hopefully I break the record this season, and I don’t even have to think about next year in Lake Louise,” she said. “I don’t want this record to determine the level of success that I’ve had in my career. … I think people forget that I have 20 more wins than any other female. … The record will not define me.”

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Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

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Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

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There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.