‘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.”

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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