Ahead of Olympic gold medal run, Suter watched videos of idol Vonn

Corinne Suter won gold in women's downhill at the 2022 Winter Olympics
Getty Images
0 Comments

BEIJING (AP) — What better way to prepare for an Olympic downhill race than by watching Lindsey Vonn.

Swiss skier Corinne Suter checked out some old videos of the sport’s most successful downhiller before her run at the Beijing Games on Tuesday and then went out and won gold — making her the first woman since Vonn in 2010 to hold the Olympic and world championship titles in the sport’s fastest and most dangerous discipline at the same time.

“She’s my biggest idol,” Suter said, adding that she watches old runs from Vonn “all the time.”

MORE ALPINE SKIING: Women’s Combined at the Winter Olympics – Live Updates and Results

When Suter raced in Val d’Isere, France, she pulled up Vonn’s runs at the French resort. For this race, she viewed some of Vonn’s training runs.

“I just like how she skis with her body and how aggressive she’s doing the turns,” Suter said of Vonn, the 2010 Olympic champion whose 43 World Cup downhills are the most ever by a man or woman. “I just watch sometimes the turns.”

Three years ago, Suter could examine Vonn up close when she took silver in the world championship downhill in Are, Sweden, while Vonn took bronze in the final race of her career.

In Beijing, Suter handled the high-speed turns on a course known as The Rock better than anyone else to beat defending champion Sofia Goggia by 0.16 seconds.

Goggia skied two spots before Suter and when she came down into the lead, it meant that three Italians were occupying the podium positions: Goggia, eventual bronze medalist Nadia Delago and Elena Curtoni, who eventually finished fifth.

Just before Suter’s run, the cameras flashed to Italian coach Michael “Much” Mair, who started crossing his arms as if to say, “Stop the race now!”

Suter was faster than Goggia through the first three checkpoints but trailed the Italian by 0.18 seconds at the final check before making time up through the flatter canyon section into the finishing jump.

And while the Italians still celebrated a big day — especially considering that Goggia injured her left knee and leg in a crash last month — it was the Swiss team celebrating the biggest honors again.

Following victories from Beat Feuz in the men’s downhill, Lara Gut-Behrami in super-G and Marco Odermatt in giant slalom, Switzerland became the first country with four different Alpine skiers to win individual gold medals at the same Olympics.

“We’re all athletes who have won a lot over the last seasons,” said Gut-Behrami, who finished 16th. “I don’t think it’s anything (surprising). … The level is so high that there’s a battle just to qualify.”

MORE ALPINE SKIING COVERAGE: In alpine skiing, women compete, but that’s about it

Joana Haehlen, another Swiss skier, finished sixth after leading the final training session a day earlier to secure one of the four starting spots on the team.

“I had no expectation at all, because I didn’t even know if I could race or not,” Haehlen said. “It’s crazy. It’s an honor to be in the team.”

The downhill course at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Center was designed by 1972 Olympic downhill champion Bernhard Russi, who is from — where else? — Switzerland.

Has the impact of Russi, who works for the Switzerland-based International Ski Federation, played a role in the Swiss team’s success in China?

“I don’t think so,” Haehlen said. But then she added: “I think the Swiss are really good when it’s technical. For us on the speed side, I think that helped.”

Suter injured both of her knees in a training crash in September, was on crutches for a month and didn’t fully regain her form until she won the final World Cup downhill before the Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

The last time Switzerland swept gold in the men’s and women’s downhills at the Olympics was 50 years ago when Marie-Theres Nadig took the women’s title to go with Russi’s victory. This time, there was also a Swiss sweep of the women’s speed events.

The Swiss women have also won three bronze medals in Beijing: Gut-Behrami in giant slalom, Wendy Holdener in slalom and Michelle Gisin in super-G.

“Everyone is super fast,” Suter said, “and we can push each other to the limit.”

Almost as fast as Vonn.

Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
Getty Images
0 Comments

Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”