European press questions Vonn's toughness; more Olympic notes
With fresh silver in her pocket from another major competition, Lindsey Vonn has decided to pull out of the World Alpine Ski Championships in Garmisch, Germany. The Olympic gold medalist is still suffering from post-concussion effects after a training fall in Austria a week earlier. Vonn underwent a head scan and subsequent concussion protocols during the week, but was allowed to continue and chose to ski even though she confessed to "skiing in a fog." She placed seventh in the Super G, withdrew from the downhill part of the combined and then on Sunday won a silver in the downhill, the event in which she is the Olympic champion. She has not ruled out a return to competition for the remaining four sites on the tour.
Despite the severity of the fall, Vonn has been taking heat from many in the European press who point out that she always skis through some type of injury at a major championship and often receives excessive credit for doing so. She won two medals at the Vancouver Olympics while skiing on a bruised shin, which some suggested she used as a fallback excuse in case she fared poorly. It was hard, however, to deny the nasty crash she suffered shortly before the 2006 Games in Turin.
To date, Austria's Elisabeth Gorgl has been the star of the championships, taking gold medals in both speed events, the downhill and the Super G.
U.S. athletes reached the podium in individual races but were shut out of the cumulative medals at the world all-round speed skating championships in Calgary last weekend. Ivan Skobrev of Russia took home all-round gold by just .18 seconds, winning the 1,500- and 10,000-meter races. Havard Bokko of Norway and Jan Blokhuijsen of the Netherlands were the other all-round medalists. Shani Davis of the U.S. had the fastest time for 500 meters, followed by teammate Brian Hansen. Jonathan Kuck, the team's third skater from Illinois, placed fifth all-round.
Dutchwoman Ireen Wust took home all-round gold by winning the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000. Canadian Christine Nesbitt finished 1.63 behind for silver, winning the 500 and recording the second-fastest time in each of the other races. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took the all-round bronze. Jilleanne Rookard, the highest placing skater from the U.S., finished seventh.
The astounding win streak of the German women lugers ended this weekend as Canada's Alex Gough won a World Cup event in the Moscow suburb of Paramonovo. The victory snapped a streak of 105 consecutive victories by German female sliders in World Cup races dating to December 1997. The only other blemish on the Germans' record in that stretch occurred at the 2009 world championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., when hometown slider Erin Hamlin brought home gold for the U.S.
It wasn't a complete loss for the Germans. Wolfgang Staudinger, himself a world champion and Olympic medalist for Germany, coaches Gough. And defending Olympic gold medalist Tatjana Huefner, who fell to fourth after taking a first-run lead, nevertheless collected enough points to secure the top spot in the season's overall standings. Huefner has won six World Cup races this season and becomes the first luger to take the season point title four times.
In quite a surprising upset, Argentina, the two-time defending Olympic champion in men's soccer, failed to qualify for the London Games after being eliminated from its regional group. Unlike the World Cup, the Olympic tournament consists primarily of players 23 and younger, but countries may select up to three players who are exempt from the limit. Argentine star Lionel Messi had expressed interest in repeating his gold medal showing, but will instead watch from the side. Brazil and Uruguay have qualified for the 16-team tournament from Argentina's group. Host Great Britain is the only other squad assured of a berth. Qualifying in the CONCACAF group, which includes the U.S., will begin next month. Brazil and Colombia are the only two nations that have qualified for the 12-team women's tournament.
Bernard Lagat added another accolade to his indoor track resume at the Armory Track and Field Center in New York on Saturday, setting a U.S. record eight minutes, 10.07 seconds for the two-mile run, an infrequently contested event. As pacesetters slowed, Lagat ran the last 3/4 of a mile alone, breaking the mark of 8:15.02 set by Doug Padilla in 1990. The 36-year-old naturalized Kenyan has set national indoor records for 1,500 meters, one mile, 3,000 meters, two miles and 5,000 meters since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2004.