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Squash aiming for the 2020 Games

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We’re not yet sure where the Olympics will be held in 2020 (though we’re guessing Istanbul gets the nod), but it’s already time to start looking at which sports will make the cut when the Summer Games return, then leave, then return again eight years from now.

Seven events will be vying for a spot on the 2020 schedule, including baseball and softball in a co-bid, but Squash has been making a lot of noise in its aim for inclusion. World Squash Federation President Rami Ramachandrans told Inside the Games that they might have figured out the formula.

“One of the big things is the introduction of glass courts, which has made squash much more spectator friendly,” Ramachandrans said. “It is one of the things that has helped improved the presentation of the game along with other measures like using under floor lighting, music, referee video review…”

His idea seems to be that making the Squash cooler will ultimately get his sport in to the Games, which was far-fetched before the IOC began awarding medals in snowboarding and BMX. Now cool spectator sports are ideal for Olympics fans growing up in an X-Games world.

“Courts can be placed in amazing iconic locations – in front of pyramids, harbour side, in museums or anywhere else to really bring a host city to life,” Ramachandrans added. “It would also create a real squash sporting legacy for that host city.”

And so the WSF launched its “Back the Bid” campaign, a movement that saw flashmobs, Twitter campaigns, and more than 40,000 enthusiasts celebrating World Squash Day around the globe. Not nearly the same as the millions upon millions that most sports boast, but it’s a definitely start.

An added bonus is how much the Olympics love racket and country club sports, and Squash, which has been called “jet-propelled chess” (though only by people who play Squash), is both. All that said, visions of men and women hitting balls around glass cages might be something we should get used to.

The seven sports will present their cases to the IOC Executive Board early next year. Game on.

Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career