Lindsey Vonn, who sped past limits to top of ski racing (and sometimes flew into safety nets, as she did again in her penultimate race), is coming to a stop

Lindsey Vonn, who sped past limits to top of ski racing (and sometimes flew into safety nets, as she did again in her penultimate race), is coming to a stop

I am not a skier.  So, when I began intermittently writing about the sport in the 1980s, I had no first-hand appreciation of the speeds top Alpine ski racers reached – and the danger that sped along with them.

Television didn’t help, because the head-on camera angle does not provide a frame of reference.  And you could tell me they were hitting 75 miles per hour, but I had no perspective on what that meant until the 1989 World Championships in Vail, Colo.

One day during women’s downhill training, I hiked partway up the side of the final pitch to the finish.  From that vantage point, with the skiers coming past me rather than coming at me, as they did when I stood in the media area at the finish, it was very clear how fast they were moving.  Frighteningly fast.

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Talking point: Nagasu suddenly in singles medal conversation

Talking point:  Nagasu suddenly in singles medal conversation

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - Before the Olympics began, the idea that Mirai Nagasu would be in any discussion about potential women's singles medalists was fanciful, even a bit preposterous.

That all changed last Monday.

"I've had her in the conversation for a week," said Robin Cousins of Great Britain, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist and BBC commentator.

A history-making triple axel jump in the team event free skate put Nagasu's name on the Olympic sports world's lips -- and on those of entertainment world celebrities like the Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik and Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who have congratulated her about it on Twitter.

"What Mirai has done is absolutely amazing," said teammate Karen Chen, speaking of the triple axel. "I think she will inspire many younger skaters that the impossible is possible."

But it was the 3 minutes, 45 seconds of near-flawless performance following her triple axel that convinced the sport's observers she was not a one-trick pony but a skater with renewed mastery of overall skills to match the resolute will that has generated one of the most endearing comebacks in figure skating history.

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Parents' support and her own will got Nagasu up to Olympics again

Parents' support and her own will got Nagasu up to Olympics again

It was one of those boilerplate questions that often draws a rehearsed answer from athletes:

"You have listed Michelle Kwan as your inspiration. What do you say to little girls who look to you as their inspiration?" the now two-time Olympian was asked on a media teleconference Tuesday.

This time, though, the response was anything but rote. That's because the subject on the other end of the line was Mirai Nagasu, who speaks from the heart rather than from a script and whose sometimes whimsical-sounding, often rambling responses are always grounded in cliché-free sincerity.

Nagasu, you see, has bounced back not only from the disappointment of being left off the 2014 Olympic team but, with the help of her parents' indomitable support and sacrifice, has overcome financial obstacles that come with being in an expensive sport. And her mother, Ikuko, is a cancer survivor.

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IOC dips an OAR in the water for symbolic 2018 Olympic punishment of Russian doping

IOC dips an OAR in the water for symbolic 2018 Olympic punishment of Russian doping

Let’s get this straight at the outset.

The International Olympic Committee’s unprecedented Tuesday decision on Russian participation at the 2018 Winter Olympics is, as yet, no big deal in any way eventual followers of the upcoming Games will find significant.

The IOC did not ban Russian athletes for the country’s involvement in systemic doping.  It banned a symbol, depriving Russia of the chance to show its flag or have its medalists honored with their national anthem or wear the country’s name on their uniforms.  Russian athletes undoubtedly will win medals of all colors, and, despite all the feel-good mantras about participating in the Olympics, results are what count.

Yes, it’s the first time such an action has been taken against an entire country because of doping.

But the IOC already has made its most important decisions regarding Russian Winter Olympic athletes by banning and taking medals from many involved in manipulation of tests at the Sochi Olympics.  If all these athletes lose their medals after appeals are exhausted, it will knock down Russia’s official medal count for the 2014 Olympics from 33 to 22.

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For Abbott, a figure skating career of brilliance and tarnish

For Abbott, a figure skating career of brilliance and tarnish

What to make of Jeremy Abbott’s competitive figure skating career, now that he used a Thursday interview on the icenetwork podcast, “Ice Talk,” to bring it to an official end?

He was a blend of unquestionable brilliance and baffling mediocrity, the latter covering many of his scintillating moments in a dull finish.

With four senior titles, Abbott is among most decorated men’s skaters at the U.S. Championships.  In the past 65 years, only Todd Eldredge has won more national titles (six).  Abbott won all his in the International Judging System era; no other U.S. man has won more than two in that 12-season period, none more than one in the nine seasons since Abbott won his first.

Abbott skated like a world-beater at several of those U.S. Championships, none more so than 2010, when his performances were better than those of the medalists at the Vancouver Olympics a month later.

And he skated at various levels of back-in-the-pack inconsequence in all his global championships, none more so than those 2010 Olympics, when he was 15th (!) in the short program and ninth overall.

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