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.”

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Usain Bolt would have considered 2020 Olympics if he lost medal before Rio

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If Usain Bolt had lost his 2008 Olympic relay medal before the Rio Games, instead of last month, maybe he would have considered trying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Maybe if it had come before the Olympics, maybe it would have taken away a little from me, and then I would have thought about [2020],” Bolt said in a CNN interview published Monday of dropping from nine Olympic golds to eight due to teammate Nesta Carter‘s doping, “but the fact that I got the chance to say, ‘the triple-triple,’ kind of made me feel good.”

In Rio, Bolt completed his “triple-triple” at his final Olympics, sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at a third straight Games. Bolt raced with the knowledge that Carter had failed retests of 2008 Olympic samples but had yet to receive any punishment.

Five months later, the triple-triple was no more.

On Jan. 25, the IOC announced teammate Nesta Carter was retroactively disqualified from the Beijing Games. Carter was on Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team in Beijing, so the entire team was stripped of medals, including Bolt.

Carter is appealing his punishment.

Carter also joined Bolt on gold-medal-winning 4x100m relays at the 2012 Olympics and the world championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Carter was not disqualified from those meets like he was the 2008 Beijing Games.

Bolt said he had no fear or worry about the possibility of having to return more relay gold medals.

“Even if I lose all my relay gold medals, for me, I did what I had to do, my personal goals,” Bolt said in the CNN interview that appeared to take place two weeks ago in Monaco. “That’s what counts.”

Bolt also said he had not spoken to Carter since the ruling was handed down.

“My friends have asked me what I’m going to say [to Carter], but I don’t know,” Bolt said, repeating that he had no hard feelings toward Carter.

Bolt’s next scheduled meet is the Racers Grand Prix in Kingston on June 10, but he could (and likely will given his past) sign up for another race between now and then.

MORE: Bolt meets Michael Phelps, predicts when 100m world record will fall

Lindsey Vonn among Olympic medalists in documentary about gender in sports

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Olympic medalists Lindsey VonnHilary Knight and Ann Meyers-Drysdale will feature in TOMBOY, an hourlong, multi-platform documentary project aiming to elevate the conversation about gender in sports.

TOMBOY, which will premiere in March, is told through the voices of many of the world’s most prominent female athletes, broadcasters and sports executives.

It will air across all NBC Sports Regional Networks, NBCSN and select NBC-owned TV stations (check local listings). Clips can be found here. More information can be found here.

In an interview clip, Vonn discusses a challenge unique to her sport — fear.

“In my sport, you can’t be afraid,” said the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, who continues to come back from high-speed crashes and major injuries. “Ski racing is an incredibly dangerous sport. It definitely would not be safe if you were afraid of going 90 miles per hour.”

Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, said that at age 5 one of her grandmothers told her that girls don’t play hockey.

“Since age 5, I’ve been working toward an Olympic dream,” said Knight, the MVP of the last two world championships. “Fifteen years later, I ended up at my first Olympic Games.”

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VIDEO: Vonn crashes out of World Cup super-G