Laurenne Ross, Resi Stiegler, Alice McKennis Duran end ski careers defined by comebacks

Laurenne Ross
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Laurenne RossResi Stiegler and Alice McKennis Duran, who combined for seven Olympic appearances and more than 400 World Cup starts while coming back from injury after injury, decided to make this past season their last in top-level Alpine skiing.

Ross, a 32-year-old who overcame concussions, a shattered pelvis, double-digit shoulder dislocations, an ACL blowout, a hip tear, bulging discs, severe ankle sprains and more than 200 stitches in her face, announced her final race will be at the U.S. Championships that finish next week in Aspen, Colorado.

“From the community to the thrills, the injuries and pain, the sights, the flow, the love and the growth, I’m so grateful for every single part of my adventure through ski racing,” was posted on Ross’ social media. “It feels like I’m about to lose an enormous part of myself, but I am comforted by the gut feeling that “it’s time.”

Ross was the only American woman to race the downhill at both the 2014 Olympics and 2018 Olympics, her top finish 11th in Sochi. She also made two World Cup podiums — three years apart — and was fifth in the 2017 World Championships downhill.

She came back from an ACL tear at the March 2017 U.S. Championships to make the 2018 Olympic team. In downhill training at the 2019 World Championships, she crashed and suffered major left knee injuries that required surgery.

Ross sat out the 2019-20 season, then reinjured the left knee training giant slalom in November 2020. She returned in January for her final World Cup races, a 23rd her final finish on the circuit.

“I am fulfilled with what I’ve experienced, and am ready to let go of the ‘what ifs’ and untapped potential,” was posted on her social media. “It’s like I’m standing in the start gate of a course I’ve never raced on before. Except I haven’t inspected and there are so many unknowns that I’m about to face: dragons, math equations, good trouble, and fireworks.”

Stiegler, 35, was for a time the U.S.’ top female slalom skier, bridging the gap between six-time World Cup race winner Kristina Koznick and the emergence of Mikaela Shiffrin.

Stiegler recorded 16 World Cup top-10s from 2004 through 2007, then earned her one podium in 2012, coming back from a fractured tibia and femur that kept her out of the 2010 Olympics.

She tore her left ACL two weeks after that podium and worked her way back onto the national team and into two more Olympics. Her best Olympic finish was in her first Olympic race, 11th in the combined in 2006.

Stiegler, the daughter of three-time Olympic medalist Pepi Stiegler of Austria, once got out of a speeding ticket in Austria by claiming to be Lindsey Vonn. She often raced with tiger ears glued on her helmet from 2004-06.

“No words can explain any of it,” was posted on Stiegler’s social media after her World Cup farewell run, where she wore the tiger ears. “Let the memories and stories live on. I love it so much and I’m so thankful for it all.”

McKennis Duran, 31, said the word “abundant” came to mind when looking back on her career.

“An abundant amount of injuries, risk, effort and dedication, but most importantly I feel my career was abundant in so many positive and memorable ways,” was posted on her social media. “It’s time to step away from ski racing.”

McKennis Duran won a World Cup downhill in St. Anton, Austria, on Jan. 12, 2013, and had no top-10s in the following five years before finishing fifth in the 2018 Olympic downhill. In between, she missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics after shattering her right tibial plateau into about 30 pieces in a March 2013 crash. She received 11 screws, a metal plate and an 11-inch scar that she affectionately called “The Shark.”

She then missed the entire 2018-19 season after suffering a transverse fracture of her tibia and fibula while coaching at the American Downhiller camp in May 2018.

McKennis Duran’s final World Cup race was last Dec. 18, when she fractured her right ankle in a crash. She said she underwent surgery in nine of her 12 years on the World Cup, including five season-ending injuries. She will take her final lap before Saturday’s U.S. Alpine Championship downhill, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Taylor Fritz becomes crowd enemy at French Open

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The French Open crowd was not happy with American player Taylor Fritz after he beat one of their own — indeed, their last man in the bracket — so they booed and whistle relentlessly. Fritz’s response? He told them to shush. Over and over again.

Fritz, a 25-year-old from California who is seeded No. 9 at Roland Garros, got into a back-and-forth with the fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen after his 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over 78th-ranked Arthur Rinderknech in the second round on Thursday night.

Rinderknech attempted a lob that landed long on the last point, and Fritz, who had been running toward the baseline to chase the ball, immediately looked up into the stands and pressed his right index finger to his lips to say, essentially, “Hush!”

He held that pose for a bit as he headed back toward the net for a postmatch handshake, then spread his arms wide, wind-milled them a bit as if to egg on the rowdiness, and yelled: “Come on! I want to hear it!”

During the customary winner’s on-court interview that followed, more jeers rained down on Fritz, and 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli kept pausing her attempts to ask a question into her microphone.

So Fritz again said, “Shhhhh!” and put his finger toward his mouth, while Bartoli unsuccessfully tried to get the spectators to lower their decibel level.

More boos. More whistles.

And the awkwardness continued as both Bartoli and a stadium announcer kept saying, “S’il vous plaît” — “Please!” — to no avail, while Fritz stood there with his arms crossed.

A few U.S. supporters with signs and flags drew Fritz’s attention from the front row, and he looked over and said to them, “I love you guys.”

But the interview was still on hold.

Bartoli tried asking a question in English, which only served to draw more boos.

So Fritz told her he couldn’t hear her. Bartoli moved closer and finally got out a query — but it didn’t seem to matter what her words were.

Fritz, who has been featured on the Netflix docuseries about tennis called “Break Point,” had his hands on his hips and a message on his mind — one reminiscent of Daniil Medvedev’s contretemps with fans at the 2019 U.S. Open.

“I came out and the crowd was so great honestly. Like, the crowd was just so great,” Fritz said, as folks tried to drown out his voice. “They cheered so well for me, I wanted to make sure that I won. Thanks, guys.”

And with that, he exited the stage.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

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French Open: Coco Gauff to face younger opponent for first time at a Grand Slam

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Coco Gauff‘s first 49 Grand Slam main draw singles matches were all against older opponents. Her 50th will be against a younger one.

The sixth-seeded Gauff reached the French Open third round by beating 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday. Gauff, 19, next plays 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the round of 32 on Saturday.

“I don’t see age as a factor,” said Gauff, who has practiced with Andreeva. “When you step on the court, you just see your opponent, and you don’t really think about the personal side of things. You just see forehand, backhand, serve, and all the same.”

Gauff made her major debut at age 15 in 2019 by beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon. In her 15 majors, Gauff has usually been the youngest male or female singles player, including most recently at 2022 Wimbledon. She is still the lone teenager in the WTA top 49.

But that may soon change. Youngsters from the Czech Republic and Russia are on the rise. Such as Andreeva, who, at No. 143 in the world and climbing, is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18. And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches, fewest of any woman.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

But Gauff is still in a class of her own among her generation, having at last year’s French Open become the youngest major finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17. She somehow flew somewhat under the radar into Paris this year with a 4-4 record this spring and in between full-time coaches.

She has now won back-to-back matches for the first time since March, rallying past 71st-ranked Spaniard Rebeka Masarova in the first round and then dispatching an error-prone Grabher, a runner-up at a low-level clay event last week.

The other three seeds in Gauff’s section have all lost, so she would not play a seed until the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won all 12 sets they’ve played, including in last year’s French Open final.

“I lost that final, and like for like a week or two, I really thought it was the worst thing ever,” Gauff said. “There’s no point in me revisiting last year. It’s in the past. It was a great tournament, but I’m looking forward for more this week.”

While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.

The top four seeds — Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan — all reached the third round without dropping a set.

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