Vonn takes her final bow with world championship downhill bronze

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High winds caused organizers to shorten the women’s downhill course at the world championships in Are, Sweden, the site of the final race in the historic career of the U.S.’ Lindsey Vonn.

The short course was thought to be a plus for Vonn’s curtain call. In Are, Vonn has been know to run into trouble in the upper section of the downhill.

Skiing third, Vonn stood in the gate, her right leg twitching with adrenaline. Leading up to her final race, Vonn had stated she would come out with “guns blazing,” and she did.

Vonn picked up time on the leader throughout her run, starting off .023 seconds back at the first split, but by the time she crossed the finish line Vonn had taken the lead by .033 seconds.

“I laid it all on the line and that’s all I wanted to do today. I have to admit I was a bit nervous,” Vonn said after the race. “Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life. I wanted to finish strong so badly and I had a really hard time controlling my nerves and I never have a hard time with that.

“I’m just happy I made it to the finish and I came down in the lead, which is nice for my last race and I’m also safe. I made it down safely. My boyfriend and my family are happy.”

NBC Sports’ Steve Porino said he had spoken to Vonn’s father Alan Kildow in Are before the start of the race. Kildow told Porino he had never been nervous before a race, but knowing how his daughter would attack the course, his only hope was for her to get to the bottom in one piece.

“She has been business as usual this whole week, saying I’m racing to win,” said Karin Kildow, Vonn’s sister, according to the Associated Press. “I was like, ‘Just maybe make it down and maybe stand up.’ But she was like, ‘No, I’m going full out’. She was definitely in the mindset to push it and she really did.”

Waiting for Vonn at the finish was the man who has won more Alpine skiing races than anyone in history, Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn pleaded with Stenmark via text to come to her final race.

“Ingemar being in the finish area was literally the best thing that ever happened in my life,” Vonn told NBC Sports.

Stenmark greeted Vonn with a giant bouquet of flowers.

10 February 2019, Sweden, Are: Alpine skiing, world championship, downhill, ladies: Lindsey Vonn from the USA poses after the race with the former Swedish ski racer Ingemar Stenmark. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa (Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Fittingly, Vonn was able to sit in the leader’s chair on her final day of racing. Vonn held the top spot through five skiers, then Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, the reigning downhill world champion, dropped in for her run, crossing the finish line .49 hundredths of a second faster than Vonn.

Vonn clung to second place for ten more skiers, then Switzerland’s Corinne Suter posted the second fastest time of the day, bumping Vonn to third, where she would stay to win the bronze.

Full results are here.

“It really helped me to start lower down,” Vonn said according to the Associated Press. “The upper section was a bit bumpy and with my knee it’s really hard on the body. I knew I had a good chance and thankfully right before I went, exact opposite of the super-G, the sun came out. I was like, this is it. This is my day. I just charged. I gave it everything I have like always. I put the nerves aside and just enjoyed it. I love going fast. It was a perfect day for downhill.”

Back on February 1, Vonn announced on Instagram that the super-G and downhill in Are will be the last races of her career.

“My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of,” Vonn wrote. “My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.”

The fact that Vonn’s final race comes in Are conjures up some bittersweet memories. In 2007, Vonn won her first world championship medals there — silver in both the super-G and downhill. The flip side is after winning those medals, Vonn suffered her first major injury, a season-ending ACL sprain caused by a crash in slalom training.

Vonn will end her career with 82 World Cup wins, the most ever by a woman, 2 world championship wins and three Olympic medals – including downhill gold in 2010.

10 February 2019, Sweden, Are: Alpine skiing, world championship, downhill, ladies: Lindsey Vonn from the USA poses after the race with the medals of her career. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa (Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Top prospects, WNBA rookies make statement in World Beach Games 3×3 hoops

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Before No. 1 high school basketball prospect Paige Bueckers starts her career at Connecticut — or before she even graduates from high school — she is taking some time to help the U.S. women’s 3×3 team make a late charge in the world rankings before next year’s Olympics.

On the beachside court at Qatar’s Katara Beach, the 19th-ranked U.S. women opened the World Beach Games with a couple of routs over the Dominican Republic (22-5) and Jordan (22-4), clinching a spot in the knockout rounds.

Top-ranked Russia should have provided tougher competition Tuesday, with the group win and a better seed in the playoffs at stake, but the U.S. rolled to a 22-3 win.

The U.S. women are currently ranked 19th, but check back as the rankings change daily. The rankings require a bit of calculus, but in general, they reward not just results but participation, a disadvantage for North American teams that don’t have as many international events within easy traveling distance.

Their effort in Qatar won’t be enough to climb into the top three to take one of the automatic Olympic qualifying spots by the Nov. 1 deadline, but they should easily have enough points to reach the qualifying tournament in March.

In last year’s 3×3 World Cup, the U.S. women also defeated Russia 21-13 in pool play but dropped a 17-14 decision to Italy in the quarterfinals. Ruthy Hebard, a University of Oregon forward from Alaska who is projected as a top pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, is the sole carry-over from that team to this year’s World Beach Games team. Hebard and Oregon teammate Sabrina Ionescu, who is not playing in Qatar, were on the U.S. team that took gold at the Pan Am Games this summer.

Two of Hebard’s teammates in Qatar, Jackie Young and Napheesa Collier, have just finished their rookie seasons in the WNBA. Collier, the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year with the Minnesota Lynx, has plenty of international experience, including a win in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Young, who is making her international debut, was the top pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft and led the Las Vegas Aces with 4.5 assists per game in her rookier year.

Bueckers, who will turn 18 next week, has already helped U.S. teams win three gold medals in youth full-court tournaments 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship plus 3×3 gold at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. She was MVP of the U19 World Cup earlier this year.

The team had a balanced attack in its first two games, with Hebard and Collier each averaging 6 points per game under 3×3’s unique scoring system 1 point for a field goal inside the arc, 2 points for a shot beyond the arc, and 1 point for a free throw. Bueckers hit 4 of 8 2-pointers in the first two games and averaged 5.5 points, and Young chipped in 4.5 per game.

Young took charge against Russia, hitting 7-of-14 1-point shots and two free throws for 9 points. Collier had 6 points, including a 2-pointer. Bueckers hit two shots from beyond the arc for 4 points, and Hebard added 3 on 1-point shots. The team’s defense held Russia to 14% shooting.

The U.S. did not enter the men’s 3×3 competition in Qatar. The men are already guaranteed a spot in next year’s Olympic qualifying event.

Elsewhere at the World Beach Games:

  • Daniela Moroz won the women’s kitefoil racing event, Guenther Oka and Jamie Lopina each took bronze in wakeboarding, and Gakuji Tozaki earned bronze in the karate kata event, which is now an Olympic event.
  • The U.S. women’s beach soccer team, which just completed its first-ever training camp, finished 1-2 in pool play.
  • In 4×4 beach volleyball, the U.S. women have advanced to the final, while the U.S. men will play in the semifinals.

STREAMING: World Beach Games on OlympicChannel.com

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Chinese swimmer Sun Yang gets rare open hearing in doping case

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Monday it will hear the World Anti-Doping Agency’s case against three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang on Nov. 15 in front of reporters — possibly even live-streamed — at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Montreux, Switzerland.

The hearing won’t be completely open. Registration will be required, and photographers and videographers “will be invited to leave the hearing room after the opening,” CAS said in a statement. But those outside the room may still get a glimpse of the proceedings.

“With the agreement of all parties, it is intended to live stream all or parts of the hearing on the CAS website,” CAS said.

CAS noted that it has only held one prior hearing that wasn’t in a private setting — the 1999 case involving Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin, who won three gold medals in the 1996 Olympics but was banned for four years for tampering with a urine sample, a case that still prompts soul-searching in the Irish media. De Bruin lost the appeal.

Sun is accused of smashing a vial of blood at a drug test last fall. FINA allowed him to continue to compete, but the WADA has appealed, seeking a substantial suspension.

The Chinese swimmer won two gold medals at the world championships this summer and snubbed by some rivals at each medal ceremony, leading to a confrontation with British swimmer Duncan Scott.

RECAP AND VIDEO: Sun taunts Scott after medal ceremony

Sun has won 11 world individual titles in several freestyle distances but also has a long history of controversies ranging from a prior positive drug test and confrontations with other swimmers.

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