Lolo Jones

Aja Evans wins bobsled national push championship; Lauryn Williams 3rd, Lolo Jones 5th

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There’s still a long way to go to Sochi, but Aja Evans made an early statement in the competition to make the U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled team by winning a second straight national push championship Thursday.

The national championships combined times of two pushes in Calgary, Canada, to determine standings. The results will help determine the selection of the national team for races this fall.

Evans won with a two-run total of 10.931 seconds. Two-time world medalist Katie Eberling came in second, .06 behind, followed by recent track and field convert Lauryn Williams

Williams, 29, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters, retired from track in June and was convinced to try the new sport by Lolo Jones. 2010 Olymipan Emily Azevedo was fourth, followed by Jones in fifth.

The push athletes are bidding to make the Olympic team, which will likely be made up of three two-woman sleds. Evans, a former collegiate sprinter, medaled in the last two World Cups of the 2012-13 season, her first in the sport.

“I definitely feel more confident this year after my performances last season, and just having a year of sliding under my belt gives me some added confidence,” Evans said in a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation release. “I’m more aware, and I know what to expect this season. Now I can focus on the things that matter, like my technique. I think I can be more explosive off the block, so I’m going to continue working on that with hopes of mastering it before the season.”

Eberling, like Evans, would be a favorite for the Olympic team if it was named today. She won silver with pilot Elana Meyers at the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in January.

“This is the first stage of a long season ahead, so I’m pretty happy with how I performed,” Eberling said. “It’s a different feeling now that I’ve been in the sport for two years, because there’s an expectation to do well now.”

If the U.S. qualifies a third sled for Sochi, which it should, the competition could be tight among the push athletes. Azevedo and Jones were the third and fourth women during the last World Cup season. Williams could be a wild card as she gets used to the ice.

“I am very eager to make the most of the next eight weeks and learn as much as possible,” Williams said. “I want to be a bobsledder.”

The World Cup season begins in Calgary in late November. Results will help determine how many sleds the U.S. will qualify for Sochi and which athletes will make the Olympic team, which was named in mid-January for the 2010 Games.

Drivers and push athletes are planned to pair up for a competition Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

Photo: Lindsey Vonn joins Tiger Woods for practice round at PGA Championship course

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