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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Thomas Bach: Hamburg bid rejection is ‘missed opportunity’

Thomas Bach
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The rejection of Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Olympics marks a “missed opportunity” for the city and Germany, IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday.

Hamburg withdrew its bid Sunday after it was defeated in a referendum by voters in the northern port city. The vote was 51.6 percent against, and 48.4 percent in favor.

“The IOC of course respects the close vote by the citizens of Hamburg,” Bach said in a statement. “We regret the decision, which should be seen in the light of the very particular and difficult circumstances the referendum was held in. This is a missed opportunity for Hamburg and Germany.”

The vote came as Germany copes with an influx of migrants and refugees, a situation that Bach said “requires a great effort by German government and society and is causing widespread feelings of uncertainty.”

He also said the result may have been influenced by current doping and corruption scandals in sports. Without citing any by name, Bach alluded to the scandals surrounding FIFA, allegations of bribery involving Germany’s winning bid for the 2006 World Cup, and doping and corruption charges facing the IAAF and track and field.

“This is a pity,” Bach said, adding that the IOC applies strict anti-corruption rules.

The IOC president said the Hamburg vote was “greatly influenced” by the issue of how the games would be financed. Hamburg’s operating budget of 3.4 billion euros ($3.6 billion) was “very well balanced,” with the IOC planning to contribute $1.7 billion to the project, Bach said.

Hamburg’s withdrawal leaves four cities in contention: Rome, Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017.

“The IOC is proud to have four strong candidate cities,” Bach said.

A spokeswoman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted the decision by Hamburg voters.

Merkel “took note of the results of the vote in Hamburg, and the chancellor finds this decision regrettable but of course she respects the will of the people,” government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin.

“That’s why referendums are held – to find out what the population wants, and obviously Hamburgers don’t want the Olympics,” Wirtz said.

MORE: Soccer star Carli Lloyd and coach Jill Ellis nominated for FIFA honors

Soccer star Carli Lloyd and coach Jill Ellis nominated for FIFA honors

Jill Ellis, Carli Lloyd
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FIFA announced today that Carli Lloyd, the midfielder on the U.S. women’s national soccer team whose hat trick in the World Cup final helped the US win gold, was nominated for the Women’s World Player of the Year award.

The woman who coached the USWNT to a 5-2 World Cup victory over Japan, Jill Ellis, was nominated in the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football category.

Nominated alongside Lloyd are Japan’s Aya Miyama, a member of the silver-medal winning team at the London Olympics, and Germany’s Celia Sasic, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Both Lloyd and Miyama are expected to represent their countries again at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Sasic retired after the 2015 World Cup.

Only two American women have been named the FIFA World Player of the Year–Abby Wambach in 2012 (when Lloyd was also a semifinalist) and Mia Hamm in both 2001 and 2002.

Lloyd is already racking up a long list of honors in 2015. In addition to earning the Golden Ball Award at the World Cup, she’s nominated by Sports Illustrated for Sportsman of the Year and will be honored on December 2nd by the March of Dimes as their Sportswoman of the Year.

Ellis has been USWNT head coach since May 2014, but has a long Olympic history with the team. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics she was a scout, and then was assistant coach to Pia Sundhage at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She also served as the interim coach at the end of 2012 after Sundhage left to coach for Sweden, and again when Tom Sermanni was fired in April 2014. She is expected to be the head coach at the 2016 Games.

The other nominees for FIFA World Coach of the Year are England’s Mark Sampson and Japan’s Norio Sasak.

The awards are voted on by team captains, coaches and the media, and will be announced on January 11th. The Ballon d’Or winner will also be announced. The three finalists for the top honor on the men’s side are Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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