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Category: Winter Olympics

U.S. sledders on track in world championship

Elana Meyers jumps into sled with driver Shauna Rohbock at Friday's start.U.S. bobsledders Shauna Rohbock and Elana Meyers are in the lead after today's first two runs of the World Bobsled Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.

They won the second run by 6/100ths of a second to take an even more miniscule lead (4/100ths) over Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke of Great Britain into the final two runs Saturday.

The U.S. performance is not surprising, given Rohbock's strong driving all season and the home-ice advantage.

Rohbock, an Olympic silver medalist in 2006 with Valerie Fleming as her pusher, skipped the World Cup race in Utah last week to maximize that advantage by taking more runs at Lake Placid.

"We're on the track here in October, and it's usually warm and rainy, and the ice is soft, so we don't really get to see the track prepared the way it is for worlds or a World Cup until January or February,'' Rohbock said before the worlds. "So it's kind of a new track for us as well until that time.

"Coming back here and missing that World Cup, we actually got to see the track like it's going to be for worlds, and I feel like that is going to give us the help we need to bring home medals at the world championship.''

It's a track that makes many sledders nervous, said leading U.S. men's driver Steve Holcomb, whose two-man competition begins Saturday.

"The track is very difficult, with a lot of tricky spots,'' Holcomb said.  "One of the biggest players here is confidence going down the track.  A lot of people get scared of the track.  Having more runs here than anybody, we don’t have those nerves but more of competition nerves.  It's a huge home-track advantage.''

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Elana Meyers jumps into sled with driver Shauna Rohbock at today's start. Credit: Mike Groll / Associated Press

Lindsey V for victory (and second place)

Lindsey Van

Friday was a good day to be a 24-year-old U.S. skier who lives in Park City and is named Lindsey V.

Lindsey Van went into the history books as the first women's world champion in ski jumping.

Lindsey Vonn, who won two titles at this year's alpine worlds, got back to a podium for the first time since slicing her thumb on a broken Champagne bottle 12 days ago, finishing second to Maria Riesch of Germany in a World Cup super-combined race at Tarvisio, Italy.

It's too bad only one of them will have a chance to do it again next year in the Olympics, unless the Supreme Court of British Columbia rules in the jumpers' favor this spring.

Ten jumpers from six countries have sued the Vancouver Olympic organizers to gain ...

Continue reading »

Skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender remembers her dad, Ted

Katie Uhlaender

You don't have to be a fan of Olympic skeleton -- or even know what the sport is about -- to feel for Katie Uhlaender and understand her conflicting emotions about competing while her father, Ted, battled multiple myeloma.

Ted Uhlaender, a former major league outfielder who spent parts of eight seasons with the Twins, Indians and Reds, died on Thursday. Katie learned of his passing after she won a silver medal in the final World Cup event of the season.

She had some very touching things to say, and it's worth a visit to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation's website to read more.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Katie Uhlaender celebrates her run in the World Cup women's skeleton race on Thursday in Park City, Utah. Credit: Douglas C. Pizac / Associated Press.

U.S. short track speedskaters long on success

Kimberly Derrick The U.S. women's short track speedskating team made history by earning a first-place team classification at the last World Cup event of the season, a first for the women.

Champions for the women at the event in Dresden, Germany, were Kimberly Derrick of Memphis, Tenn., in the 1,000 and the women's 3,000-meter relay team. Katherine Reutter of Champaign, Ill., won silver medals in the 1,000 and 1,500.

Among the men, J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash. -- a recent graduate of Lakewood High -- won the 1,500 and was second in the 1,000, and Anthony Lobello of Tallahassee, Fla., was second in the 500.

The men were ranked second in the team classification even though Apolo Anton Ohno didn't compete in the last two World Cup events and Jordan Malone of Denton, Texas, was pulled from the competition because of an injury.

Next up is the short track world championships in Vienna in two weeks.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Kimberly Derrick. Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

More mumbo-jumbo, no medals for Miller

Bodemiller_500

Bode Miller now is 0 for 3, 0 for 4 or 0 for 15.

That means Miller has not won a medal in 15 events of the three major championships in the last four years.

At the 2009 worlds that ended Sunday in Val d'Isere, France, he failed to finish three races, including the first run of Sunday's slalom, and his top finish was eighth in the downhill.

But he did criticize the three medalists in the super-giant slalom because they skied defensively on a course that demanded it.  He, by comparison, threw away a medal in the combined by skiing like a mad fool in the slalom leg and missing a gate, and he was 12th in the Super-G.

He was better in the 2007 worlds: sixth, seventh, 15th, 24th, one DNF.

And, sort of, in the 2006 Olympics: fifth, sixth, two DNFs, one disqualification.

That means he has finished barely half his races (eight of 15) in the last three world championships.

Now there is no question he caught a very bad break in the 2009 downhill, forced to ski through fog so thick the race should have been stopped. And Miller has been battling an ankle injury all season.

But the man who is rightly called the greatest male skier in U.S. history is struggling as never before.

After a 2008 season in which he won the World Cup title with six race victories and five other podium finishes, Miller has not won a race, made the podium just twice and had only four other top-10 finishes this season.

"The results are disappointing, the skiing wasn't,'' Miller said on Sunday.

That was typical Miller mumbo-jumbo, explaining away his failures by insisting, like an artist whose paintings don't sell, that the way he skis, in some search for the ethereal, counts for more than medals.

In an interview last week with Alan Abrahamson of Universal Sports, Miller mentioned he might skip the 2010 Olympics, saying it was "probably likely'' he would retire after this season.

Miller did the same dance the year before the 2006 Olympics.  It made big news because he was coming off a 2005 season in which he won the World Cup overall and world titles in downhill and Super-G.  There was almost a "say it ain't so'' reaction from the non-ski-specialist media, who were told Miller was a ski genius and had yet to discover Miller is a tedious bore given to statements that smack of hypocrisy.

He worried in 2005 that winning a bunch of gold medals would make it hard for him to lead a normal life.  But he likes the life of success, with its Porsches and fast groupies and the rest of the accouterments.

That was no issue after his performance at the 2006 Olympics.

And he is no issue heading toward the 2010 Winter Games, even if he may decide to compete and probably still is capable of getting the Olympic gold medal so lacking from his resume, but not the resumes of nearly all the other great skiers in history.

I leave the last word to John Meyer of the Denver Post, who has paid close attention to skiing for years.

His Saturday blog was headlined, "Bode has become irrelevant -- does anybody care?''

You know the answer.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: An all-too-familiar sight: Bode Miller failing to finish, this time in the first run of the men's slalom Sunday at the world championships.  Credit: Alessandro Trovati / Associated Press

Lindsey Vonn's thumb injury puts her season in doubt

Lindsey Vonn U.S skier Lindsey Vonn will wait to see if she can ski without "extreme pain'' in training before deciding whether to compete in Saturday's slalom, the final women's race at the world championships in Val d'Isere, France.

Vonn, who won Monday's downhill, said today that the condition of the thumb -- which she cut while opening a Champagne bottle Monday at a victory party -- could compromise the rest of her season.

Speaking about the party, Vonn said what "was supposed to be a wonderful night turned into total chaos.''

Read Philip Hersh's full report on latimes.com/sports.

Photo: Lindsey Vonn at today's news conference. Credit: Frank Fife / AFP / Getty Images

Wake-up Call: Kings, David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre, Stump (the dog)

First things first: Are the Kings for real? Is coach Terry Murray a godsend for this young, talented team? Answer to both questions: It's looking like it. They played the struggling Islanders last night and might have been expected to have a letdown after their unexpected victories against the Washington Capitals (second in the Eastern Conference) and New Jersey Devils (third in the Eastern Conference). But they came through, winning 4-3 -- in a shootout no less -- and now have won seven of their last eight games. They have 55 points, two points out of the playoffs.  There are 30 games left, 19 of those on the road. Of the 22 road games they've played, they've lost only 11, one of those in a shootout. But of the 11 road games since Dec. 23, they've won eight.

Add NHL: In case you missed it, the Dallas Stars assigned bad boy (and thankfully ex-Kings) Sean Avery to the American Hockey League's Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday. He cleared waivers Monday but, because Dallas does not have an AHL affiliate, finding a home for him wasn't easy. The New York Rangers eventually agreed to let Avery be assigned the Wolf Pack. He was with the Rangers before signing a four-year, $15.5-million deal with Dallas over the summer.

More Becks: Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber today said he wanted David Beckham's future resolved by Friday or he would not approve any transfer between the Galaxy and AC Milan. Read the report from LAT's Grahame Jones. Garber also confirmed that Beckham has a clause in his five-year contract with MLS and the Galaxy that would allow the English midfielder to leave at the end of this season.

Another milestone: Kobe Bryant showed no lingering effects from the flu, scoring 34 points and becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 23,000 in the Los Angeles Lakers' 105-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But does he mean it? Brett Favre, having failed to lead the New York Jets into the playoffs, says he is retiring. Again. This time he probably means it, given the horrible ending to last season, which resulted in the firing of head coach Eric Mangini. ESPN.com has put together the Top 10 moments of Favre's long career. My favorite is from 2007, when he tied Dan Marino for the all-time record in career touchdown passes.

A dog's life: A Sussex spaniel called Stump became the oldest Best in Show winner at America's top canine competition, the Westminster Kennel Club. Stump, age 10, came out of retirement last week to claim the top prize. For a different take, of course, there is T.J. Simers' column. (Am still trying to figure out whether he likes dogs or not.)

Olympic countdown: International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is in Vancouver this week to mark the one-year countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics amid worries about the global financial crisis. Look for our special coverage this week from Vancouver on latimes.com/sports, including an overview of what Vancouver has done to try to stay ahead of the money crisis, a look at the U.S. medal chances and a rundown of some of the athletes to watch.

-- Debbie Goffa

U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn out of Thursday's giant slalom

Lindsey Vonn American Lindsey Vonn, winner of the super-G and Monday's downhill at the world championships in France, is out of tomorrow's giant slalom, the U.S. ski team announced.

Vonn had surgery Tuesday to repair an injury to her right thumb and will have more treatment on that thumb in order to be better prepared for Saturday's slalom.

Giant slalom is the weakest event for Vonn, who never has made a World Cup podium in the discipline.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lindsey Vonn, post surgery. Credit: Kerstin Joensson / Associated Press

Lindsey Vonn undergoes surgery to repair tendon damage

U.S. ski queen Lindsey Vonn's participation in Thursday's world championship giant slalom is in doubt after she underwent surgery in Austria to repair tendon damage to her right thumb, which she cut while opening a celebratory bottle of champagne Monday.

Vonn, who won the world championship downhill Monday in Val d'Isere, France, flew by private jet Tuesday to Innsbruck, where she underwent surgery at Privatklinik Hochrum, according to the U.S. ski team.

She was remain overnight in Austria and return to Val d'Isere Wednesday.

"The surgery went fine" said U.S. ski team doctor Richard Quincy. "She will have a splint and should be able to grip her ski pole. We anticipate she will be ready to compete in Saturday's slalom and possibly the giant slalom Thursday."

"Everything went really well and I couldn't be more thankful for the care that I've received," said Vonn, who has won gold medals in super G and downhill in Val d'Isere. "The support I've received from my fans has been awesome and I'm looking forward returning to Worlds and challenging for another medal."

Vonn was driven from Val d'Isere to Geneva, Switzerland, where she met a plane supplied by her sponsor, Red Bull.

-- Philip Hersh

Bode Miller fails to finish in men's Super Combined

Bode_miller

U.S. skier Bode Miller needed only a relatively conservative slalom run late this afternoon to win the gold in the men's Super Combined at the world championships in Val d'Isere, France, but instead missed a gate midway down the course and failed to finish.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, meanwhile, held onto his lead from the downhill leg to win the third world title of his career. France's Julien Lizeroux was second.

Stay tuned to Fabulous Forum and to latimes.com/sports for more coverage of the world championships.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Bode Miller struggles to keep his balance during the Super Combined race. He missed a gate and did not complete the race. Credit: Alessandro Trovati / Associated Press

Lindsey Vonn wins second gold, makes more history

Vonn

She was bummed after learning she had missed a gate in the Super Combined slalom Saturday after a finish that apparently had won a silver medal.

She was bummed about the one-day delay in the women's downhill caused by relentless snow Sunday.

But it is a mark of just how confident Lindsey Vonn has become that she simply shrugged that off and put together a flawless run today to win the downhill title at the world championships in Val d'Isere, France.

"It was a tough day for me,'' Vonn said.  "We've had two days off, and I have kind of been thinking about the Super Combined, being disqualified there.

"I was actually really nervous in the start, but my husband was there, and he really calmed me down and got me in the right mood for fighting and attacking. That's what I did.''

It gave Vonn another place in the history books as the first U.S. woman to win more than one gold medal in a stand-alone worlds since the event began in 1931. (Andrea Mead Lawrence won two golds at the Olympics in 1952, when the Olympics counted as a worlds.) [The year of Andrea Mead Lawrence's double gold win was corrected at 2:30 p.m.]

It also tied Vonn, who won two silvers in 2007, with Tamara McKinney as the most decorated U.S. woman in worlds history (four medals).

"I live for a moment like today,'' she said after joining former U.S. skiers Picabo Street (1996) and Hilary Lindh (1997) as world downhill champions.

Meanwhile, Bode Miller put himself in contention for a medal in the Super Combined today with one of his typically hair-raising downhill runs. Miller somehow kept himself on the course at the top to finish just 4/100ths behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

France's Jean-Baptiste Grange, the World Cup slalom leader this season, was expected to be the leading challenger to Svindal and Vonn in the slalom leg later today after losing just 1.4 seconds in the downhill.

On a women's downhill course with just two compression bumps and little chance to glide in a tuck, Vonn's extraordinary ability to find the right line and hit the turns perfectly made the difference.

She finished .52 seconds ahead of Lara Gut, the 17-year-old Swiss phenom, and .57 ahead of Nadia Fanchini of Italy.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lindsay Vonn. Credit: Pool photo / Getty Images

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