Elena Hight

Elena Hight talks Olympic qualification, pushing the limits of snowboarding, ESPN Body Issue

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Women’s halfpipe may be the toughest U.S. Olympic team to make come 2014.

A maximum of four women can be selected from a group that includes 2002 Olympic champion and three-time reigning Winter X Games champion Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler and 2013 world champion Arielle Gold.

Elena Hight, a two-time Olympian and two-time reigning X Games silver medalist, knows that somebody who could potentially medal in Sochi will be left at home.

“Women’s halfpipe snowboarding is an extremely competitive field in the United States,” Hight said at a recent U.S. Olympic Committee event in New York. “For whatever reason, we have eight out of the top 10 women in halfpipe riding. … Looking forward into the season, a lot of people from other countries already have their spots secured going into the Olympics, which is a huge advantage. Already knowing that you’re going to be there is a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. For the U.S. it just makes me going into this season kind of focus on being the best that I can be before the season even starts because it’s not a free ride until the Olympics. It’s right off the bat in December, when our qualifiers are, you need to be as on it as possible because of that qualifying system.”

The qualifiers, or selection events, begin Dec. 12-15 in Breckenridge, Colo. There are four events spread across Colorado and California running through Jan. 19. An athlete’s two best results from those events are combined in a points system to determine three members of the Olympic team.

A fourth could be added as a discretionary pick by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

Hight, 24, sees a lot of herself in Gold, 17. Hight debuted at the Olympics at age 16 in 2006, finishing sixth.

“It’s great to have new blood,” Hight said. “I was definitely the underdog (in 2006), the youngin’ coming in to shake and rattle the veterans. I think it’s rad. … It’s cool to help her out when we can and pass along that wisdom. I think that’s what’s snowboarding’s all about.”

Hight is helping take women’s halfpipe to the next level. She was the first woman to land a double cork, doing so last May and in competition for the first time at the X Games. She believes she’s the only woman currently doing the trick, which was the headline-making move for the men going into the 2010 Olympics.

“It’s definitely a new trick for me, but I’m starting to feel much more confident with it,” she said. “Practice makes perfect. I’m spending a lot of time on snow this summer to make sure that it’s secondhand.”

Hight also spent some time in front of cameras for ESPN’s Body Issue, which came out in July.

“I have been a big fan of the Body Issue for quite some time now,” she said. “I think ESPN does a great job portraying the athlete’s body in such an amazing way. I really wanted to be a part of it and worked my way in there.”

Shaun White injured in training run at New Zealand event

Watch Simone Biles samba to Destiny’s Child on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Simone Biles easily advanced to the final seven on “Dancing with the Stars,” while Nancy Kerrigan was the last contestant to survive elimination Monday night.

Biles, a four-time Rio Olympic gymnastics gold medalist, danced a samba to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” with partner Sasha Farber.

They received 35 points out of a possible 40 — with no 10s after Biles received her first 10s the previous week. It was the fourth-best score of eight couples Monday.

Judges felt their timing was off.

Kerrigan, a two-time Olympic figure skating medalist, performed with Artem Chigvintsev to En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind.”

They scored 33 points, lowest of the four women’s contestants remaining, with judges telling Kerrigan she looked unstable and tense at times. Kerrigan has been dealing with back pain and arm weakness.

“We had a lunch break, and we had sushi, and she couldn’t lift the soy sauce,” Chigvintsev said on ABC News.

The elimination came down to Kerrigan and “Glee” actress Heather Morris. Morris was cut, via a combination judges scores and fan votes, despite recording the first perfect score of the season Monday night.

The announcement drew boos from the studio crowd.

Kerrigan and Biles are looking to become the sixth Olympian to win the Mirrorball Trophy in the series’ 24 seasons, joining Kristi YamaguchiApolo OhnoShawn JohnsonMeryl Davis and Laurie Hernandez.

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London Marathon runners reflect on viral finish-line moment

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A collapsing London Marathon runner who was helped to the finish line and the fellow runner who held him up recounted their inspiring two minutes.

Matthew Rees was rounding the final corner, signifying 200 meters left of the 26.2-mile race, when he saw David Wyeth struggling to stay on his feet on Sunday.

“My mind was like, I need to help this guy,” Rees said on the BBC. “He needs to get to the finish. You’ve come 26 miles, and the finish was just there. For me, it was important to get him to the end and cross together.”

Wyeth said he told Rees to go on without him. Rees declined. Wyeth said, “I’ve got to finish,” and Rees told him, “You will,” according to the Press Association.

“I can’t say how grateful I am to Matthew because you say that, Matthew, that others would have stopped,” Wyeth said on the BBC. “And I’m sure you’re right, that there may have been others, but you persisted.”

Rees held up Wyeth as it took them nearly two minutes to trudge to the finish line. Another person, appearing to be a race volunteer or official, also came over to help.

“It was great if I’ve inspired anyone, but I do think that anyone would’ve done the same thing,” Rees said on the BBC. “If it wasn’t me, it would have been the next runner. It’s just being a human, isn’t it? Seeing someone who’s struggling and helping them out.”

The pair crossed the finish at The Mall together, but with different times as they didn’t start together. Rees’ official time was 2 hours, 52 minutes, 26 seconds. Wyeth clocked 2:51:08.

“The time means absolutely nothing to me,” Wyeth said, according to the Press Association. “I feel a slight fraud for having a [finisher’s] medal around my neck. I should cut a little piece out because it belongs to Matthew.

“I really wouldn’t have got across the line — on my hands and knees, maybe, but the time meant nothing in the end because I know I wouldn’t have got there without Matthew putting his arm around me and carrying me over the line.”

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