What to Watch on the Dew Tour: Friday

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With the Sochi Games a mere 14 months away, some of the top Olympics snow sports athletes are in Breckenridge, Colo. for the Dew Tour this week to start preparing their runs for the world’s biggest stage. Here are four events you shouldn’t miss on Friday. (And don’t worry, you can catch them from your work desk here on NBCSports.com)

Women’s Snowboard Superpipe Semi-final (10:30 a.m.)
All three medalists from Vancouver are set to compete at Breckenridge, headlined by gold medalist Torah Bright. The 25-year-old Australian likely has one last shot at adding to her medal count in Sochi.

Vancouver silver medalist and Turin champ Hannah Teter leads a strong pack of American hopefuls, including Salt Lake City winner Kelley Clark and 2012 X Games silver medalist Elena Hight. Veteran Gretchen Bleiler – who came into Vancouver as a favorite and greatly disappointed – will also compete.

Spain’s Queralt Castellet and Cai Xuetong of China are among the best young up-and-comers in the field.

Women’s Freeski Superpipe Finals (12:30 p.m.)
22-year-old Brita Sigourney won superpipe gold at the 2011 Dew Tour stop in Ogden, and became the first woman to stick a 1080 at the 2012 X Games. The Carmel, California native was the top qualifier in the semis.

Lake Tahoe native Maddie Bowman finished 2nd in the final standings of the 2012 Dew Tour, including a win at the Killington event. Just 18, Bowman is the most talent teenager the U.S. has left in the event.

Roz Groenewoud – the reigning X Games Champ and owner of the top score in event history – headlines the Canadian contingent. Teammate Keltie Hansen also qualified for the finals.

Japan’s Ayana Onozuka is a darkhorse in the event. The 24-year old recently made the transition from alpine and finished 5th overall in her first season (2012) on the Dew Tour and 5th in the semis at Breckenridge.

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle Finals (1 p.m)
American Jamie Anderson is the lone American in the field, but it’s quality over quantity. The Lake Tahoe native posted an event high 94.25 in her first run and is the clear-cut favorite heading into the finals.

Canada’s Spencer O’Brien and Germany’s Silvia Mittermueller are also top contenders.

Men’s Freeski Superpipe Finals (3:00 p.m.)
Canada’s Mike Riddle’s 87.75 was enough to propel the 26-year-old into first place. Despite a disappointing 4th place qualification, France’s Kevin Rolland remains the favorite to top the podium. Americans David Wise and Tanner Hall should also be in the mix.

All Times Mountain

Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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