Lindsey Vonn's return highlights Friday night's Olympic slate

Pyeongchang Olympics Ski Vonn
It figures to be an emotional night for Lindsey Vonn, who is returning to Olympic competition for the first time in eight years.

Observations and impressions as ugly Thursday gives way to Lindsey Friday.

Friday night’s highlight

Lindsey Vonn described herself as a caged animal. She missed the 2014 Olympics because of a knee injury and had to sit idle for more than a week at the 2018 Games before her first competition.

The waiting will end tonight.

Vonn will be in the field for the super giant slalom (8 p.m., NBC), or the super-G, as it’s more popularly known. There are more turns than in the downhill event, which is a much faster version of the giant slalom. Vonn was third in the super-G at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

[Friday’s full TV schedule]

She won two World Cup races the weekend before the 2018 Games opened and, at 33, is trying to become the oldest Alpine skier to win Olympic gold.

 

Camera icon Ahn Young-joon, / AP File Photo
File Photo: Lindsey Vonn is likely to compete in three Olympic events: the super-G, the downhill and combined.

 

“In 2010, I was a much healthier athlete,” Vonn said. “But in 2018, I’m a much stronger athlete, not just physically but mostly mentally. I’ve overcome a lot. I know what I’m capable of, and I think I know how to handle myself better than I did.”

If she wins, she will cry. Even if she doesn’t, she’ll probably cry. Vonn was extremely close to her grandfather, who served in Korea during the war in the mid-20th century and helped get her started by building a mini ski slope when he returned home to Wisconsin.

Don Kildow died in November at 88.

“I feel really good, because it’s not really about me or my career,” she said. “It’s about my grandfather.”

 

 

Also worth a look

The 2018 Olympics were supposed to be Nathan Chen’s figure skating coronation. That’s not going to happen.

He fell twice in the short program Thursday and is in 17th place heading into Friday night’s free skate.

Teammate Adam Rippon, who might not have the technical chops to win gold, stole the show with an exuberant program good enough to place seventh after Thursday.

“I might not be the best,” said Rippon, who used to train in Philadelphia, “but I’m the most fun.”

[Adam Rippon has no time for Mike Pence]

American Vincent Zhou is 12th heading into Friday.

Reigning world champion Yuzuru Hanyu, of Japan, is trying to win his second consecutive Olympic gold. He’s ahead of Spain’s Javier Fernandez and Japanese teammate Shoma Uno.

Hanyu’s score of 111.68 is an Olympic record for the short program. (By comparison, Chen’s score was 82.27.) The last man to win consecutive figure skating Olympic golds was American Dick Button in 1948-52, which was at the height of the Korean War.

Olympic gold medalists (since World War II)/

Men’s figure skating singles

Year Winner Country
2014 Yuzuru Hanyu Japan
2010 Evan Lysacek United States
2006 Evgeni Plushenko Russia
2002 Alexei Yagudin Russia
1998 Ilia Kulik Russia
1994 Alexei Urmanov Russia
1992 Viktor Petrenko Unified Team
1988 Brian Boitano United States
1984 Scott Hamilton United States
1980 Robin Cousins Great Britain
1976 John Curry Great Britain
1972 Ondrej Nepela Czechoslovakia
1968 Wolfgang Schwarz Austria
1964 Manfred Schnelldorfer Germany
1960 David Jenkins United States
1956 Hayes Alan Jenkins United States
1952 Dick Button United States
1948 Dick Button United States

 

This and that

*Mikaela Shiffrin decided not to enter Friday’s super-G, but she will race against Vonn on Tuesday in the downhill. That’ll be cool.

*Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin saw his first action of the Olympics, playing 4 minutes, 36 seconds in a 1-0 win over Germany. Dahlin, projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft in June, did not play in the third period.

*Patrick Thoresen scored Norway’s only goal in a 5-1 loss to Finland. Flyers fans might remember Thoresen’s making just about the ultimate sacrifice when he blocked a Mike Green slap shot during a 2008 playoff game against the Capitals with his, um, groin. Thoresen missed one game. Hockey players are nuts.

*Friday night’s men’s hockey game will be Canada vs. Czech Republic (10 p.m., NBCSN).

*The United States men’s hockey team will play the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Saturday morning (7 a.m., NBCSN). The Russians are playing under the Olympic flag after the country was disqualified because of a massive doping scandal. Russia beat Slovenia, 8-2, on Thursday. Slovenia beat the U.S. earlier in the week.

 

 

U.S. medalists (8)

Through 12 p.m. Eastern, Friday, Feb. 16

Gold (5):

Mikaela Shiffrin (women’s giant slalom)

Shaun White (snowboarding/men’s halfpipe)

Chloe Kim (snowboarding/women’s halfpipe)

Jamie Anderson (snowboarding/women’s slopestyle)

Red Gerard (snowboarding/men’s slopestyle)

Silver (1):

Chris Mazdzer (luge/men’s singles)

Bronze (2):

Arielle Gold (snowboarding/women’s halfpipe)

U.S. Team (figure skating)

NBCOlympics.com medal standings

And finally …

Watching NBC’s Hoda Kotb hug a disappointed Mikaela Shiffrin after an interview following Shiffrin’s fourth-place finish wasn’t nearly as nauseating as seeing Savannah Guthrie give a belated Valentine’s Day gift to Lindsey Vonn. C’mon, folks. Objectivity. Neutrality.

As late colleague Stan Hochman, the ultimate pro among sports journalists, surely would say, “It was a disaster.”