Perry Baker, World Rugby Player of the Year, broke fibula five months before Olympics

Perry Baker
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Perry Baker, the world’s top male rugby sevens player in 2017 and 2018, said he suffered a broken fibula in a match on Feb. 21 and is rehabbing to return before the Tokyo Olympics that open July 23.

“I was running, got caught up underneath me and just popped it,” Baker said Wednesday. “The doctors told me that it’s nothing serious. Put a little pin it, and I’ll be fine. I’ll be back. So, actually, I’m walking right now. He told me, at the end of this month, I should be running.”

The Olympic roster is expected to be named in late June or early July.

Baker suffered the lower-leg injury at a tournament in Madrid (video here). USA Rugby does not disclose details of player injuries. A broken tibia, the other lower-leg bone, is a far worse injury.

Baker, who took up rugby full-time after being cut as a Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver after he failed a physical over a torn meniscus in 2011, joined the national team in 2014 at age 27.

He made the roster for Rio as rugby returned to the Olympics for the first time in 92 years. But Baker was on the sideline for the crucial last minute of a group finale loss to Fiji. The U.S. missed advancing to the quarterfinals by one tiebreaking point.

Baker was named World Player of the Year the next two years, becoming the first man to earn the honor twice. In 2019, he helped the U.S. to a program-best second-place finish in the season-long World Series standings. The Americans became Olympic medal contenders.

Then came misfortune. The U.S. opened the 2019-20 Olympic season with eighth- and ninth-place finishes in December 2019 World Series legs.

When the Tokyo Olympics were postponed and the World Series stopped with two legs left on the campaign, the Americans were ranked seventh, their lowest spot in the final standings since 2014.

The team went to Madrid two months ago for its first international competition in nearly one year. That’s where the most acclaimed American player of this Olympic cycle got hurt, but Baker expressed optimism Wednesday.

“The doctors told me I’m super strong,” he said with a smile.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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