‘Heartwarming’ responses easing Vonn’s impending retirement

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ARE, Sweden (AP) — The red marks around her puffed-up right eye made Lindsey Vonn look like a roughed-up boxer. And that was nothing next to the purple-colored bruises and scrapes on U.S. teammate Laurenne Ross’ backside.

All from one day’s work as a downhill skier.

“Downhill is not a healthy sport, people crash all the time, every day,” Vonn said. “If you want to be healthy, you should probably do another sport.”

Vonn and Ross showed off the impacts of their crashes on social media Wednesday, a day after ending up in the safety nets from their falls in the super-G at the world championships.

The 34-year-old Vonn has made a career out of bouncing back from frightful crashes.

Now she’s down to her final race — and final fight.

Her knees battered beyond repair, Vonn plans to retire after Sunday’s downhill race at worlds.

“I just can’t push the limits anymore,” Vonn said. “I’ve come back from way too many injuries and I’m just not able to do it. That’s life. .. Not everyone can be Tom Brady and keep winning the Super Bowl for a million times.”

The women’s downhill is scheduled for Sunday at 6:25 a.m. It can be watched live on NBCSN, Olympic Channel (Home of Team USA) and NBC Sports Gold and will be replayed at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and at 10:30 p.m. on NBCSN.

Like Brady, Vonn has a trophy collection that most athletes could only dream about: Her 82 World Cup wins are by far the most ever by a female racer, leaving her five short of breaking the overall record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark. She has also won three Olympic medals, including gold in downhill, seven medals at worlds, four overall World Cup globes and 16 discipline titles.

“If you look at all the injuries I’ve had, winning in five events, it’s really something amazing,” Vonn said. “I’m proud of it no matter if I got 82 or 87. I wish I could have gotten (87) but not at the risk of the rest of my life.”

While Vonn sat out downhill training Wednesday to recuperate from her latest crash — after which she said she felt like she had been “hit by an 18-wheeler” — she enjoyed a leisurely brunch of pancakes with her teammates.

It was just the kind of day Vonn was thinking about when she announced last week that she would retire after the championships — having considered calling it quits after failing to finish a super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last month.

“I didn’t want to end in Cortina. I wanted to say goodbye to everybody,” Vonn said. “It’s been nice to get messages from my fellow competitors, the coaches and all my friends who’ve supported me for so many years. It’s been really, really heartwarming for me and makes the process of retiring a little bit easier maybe because of all the responses I’ve gotten.”

Vonn, whose career has transcended her sport in a way only a handful of Olympic athletes could even imagine , has been receiving well wishes from all corners since her retirement announcement. One in particular that stood out came from tennis great Billie Jean King .

“You are a true champion who never quit,” King tweeted. To which Vonn replied, “Thank you Billie. … Just trying to follow in your footsteps!”

Vonn is also planning on exchanging messages with Stenmark — and she is wearing a suit this week featuring the blue and yellow colors of Sweden’s flag in honor of the skiing great.

“I’m hoping Ingemar will come up for Sunday,” she said. “Having my last race with him being there would be the best farewell I could possibly have.”

When it’s all over, the thing Vonn will miss most about ski racing is the thrill of hurtling her body downhill at speeds in excess of 120 kph (75 mph).

“You can’t really find the adrenalin and the speed and the risk involved in ski racing in anything else,” she said. “I kind of got that feeling when I was driving a Formula One car but it still wasn’t the same. Your body isn’t physically in harm’s way.

“I need to go fast. I don’t know how I’m going to fill that void,” Vonn added. “Because I can’t ski that fast if you go on the public trail. It is depressing. Life without skiing fast is not a happy thought.”

Italy’s Sofia Goggia gets World Cup downhill win

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Fresh off world championships, the women’s Alpine World Cup tour returned to the Swiss Alps for a bit of speed in the form of the downhill.

After finishing well off the world championship downhill podium in 15th, Italy’s Sofia Goggia was the fastest on the day in Crans-Montana.

Goggia who won the 2017-18 World Cup downhill title, was forced to put this season on ice after she injured her ankle in training ahead of the first event.

Today’s results are her best since her return to racing when she finished second in both the downhill and Super-G last month in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Despite her world championship downhill woes, Goggia didn’t leave Are empty handed, claiming silver in the Super-G.

Joining Goggia on the podium in Crans-Montana were two athletes skiing on home snow — Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen and Lara Gut-Behrami. The second place finish for Haehlen is the first World Cup podium appearance of her career, and for the two-time Olympian Gut-Behrami, her third podium finish of the 2018-19 season.

The newly-crowned world champion in women’s downhill, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec took a hard fall as the first skier out of the gate today. For the superstitious it should be noted that Stuhec finished 13th in both her downhill training runs in Crans-Montana and drew bib #1 for today’s race, but it was the woman wearing bib #13 who ended up on top of the podium.

 

The women return to racing tomorrow with the Alpine super combined, with the first run starting at 4:30 a.m. ET and the second at 7:30 a.m. ET. Watch live on Olympic Channel, OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold. Check out the schedule below for ways to watch this weekend’s remaining races.  

The men’s Super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria was cancelled earlier today after a storm swept in and dropped nearly a foot of new powder on the race course. Organizers will attempt to ready the mountain for Sunday’s giant slalom. Watch the first run live at 3:30 a.m. ET on OlympicChannel.com or using an NBC Sport Gold Snow Pass. The second run can be seen live on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel at 6:30 a.m. ET, as well as on NBC Sports Gold.

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

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
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

Norway’s Therese Johaug wins gold in return to world champs

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Norway’s seven-time world champion Therese Johaug won her first world title today since 2015 in the women’s Skiathlon at the 2019 Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria. Johaug crossed the finish line with a time of 36 minutes 54.5 seconds.

Johaug returned to racing this season after being served an 18-month drug suspension for testing positive for the steroid clostebol in 2016.

Johaug said the infraction was unintentional, and due to her use of a lip cream to treat a cold sore which, unknown to her, included the banned substance. The mistake would be costly for the three-time Olympic medalist, who had won gold in Vancouver in 2010 as well as a silver and bronze medal four years later in Sochi.  

Banned from competition, Johaug’s suspension forced her to miss the entire 2017-18 World Cup season, the 2017 World Championships as well as the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Johaug has been making up for lost time this season on the World Cup. Each time the 30-year-old Norwegian has appeared on the podium, she’s been at the top, winning nine races so far this season. And now she can add a world title to her list of accomplishments in 2019.

“I’ve been looking forward for this championship for over two years,” an emotional Johaug said after the race in Seefeld. “The last time I was in a championship was in Falun, four years ago. I’m training so much and working so hard for this, and all the team around me have helped me every time, so I’m really happy.”

Johaug crossed the finish line nearly a full minute ahead of silver medalist, and her countrywoman, Norway’s Ingvlid Flugstad Oestberg. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva finished off the podium, taking bronze.

Full results are here.

The men’s Skiathlon came down to a three-way battle with just 2km to go in the 30km race. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby made a late push to jump ahead of Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov on an uphill climb. Another Norwegian, Sjur Roethe was also keeping pace with the lead group. But as the trio neared the end, Sunby lost his lead when Roethe’s skis ran faster on a downhill section leading into the final stretch.

With all three racers within a ski’s length of one another, Roethe crossed the finish line first, just a tenth of a second ahead of Bolshunov who was able to overtake a gassed Sundby in the final push to the finish.

Check out this weekend’s remaining schedule for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and watch live on TV on Olympic Channel and online with OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold.

WORLD NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Seefeld, Austria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
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