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Friday the 13th in Olympic history

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Friday the 13th fell during the Olympics three times in the last 60 years. Each occurrence brought with it eerie (even scary) headlines. Let’s go back in time:

1976 Winter Olympics — Innsbruck Austria — Friday, Feb. 13

American Dorothy Hamill, 19, took the ice with a four-leaf clover pinned to her dress for the women’s free skate*. Before Hamill began her program, she looked into the crowd at the Olympiahalle and saw a sign.

“Which of the West? Dorothy!” it read. Hamill, thinking she was being called a witch, began to cry before she realized the sign was meant as a positive. It was asking which figure skater, Hamill or the Netherlands’ Dianne de Leeuw, could beat East German Christine Errath.

Both did. Hamill won the free skate, as she did the short program, to take gold. De Leeuw got silver ahead of Errath.

1998 Winter Olympics — Nagano, Japan — Friday, Feb. 13

A few noteworthy events took place on the first Friday of the 1998 Winter Games.

Doubles teams of Gordy Sheer and Chris Thorpe and Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin won the first two luge medals in U.S. history, silver and bronze. You may remember Gus Johnson doing the exuberant play-by-play of sliding events that year.

In hockey, an anticipated U.S.-Sweden duel failed to live up to expectations. Peter Forsberg and the Swedes won 4-2, beginning a forgettable Olympics for the U.S. men.

But the scary Friday the 13th of headlines came in Alpine skiing’s downhill. In perhaps the most memorable video of the Games, Austrian Hermann Maier went airborne and crashed through netting. Somehow, he walked away from it, and, three days later, Maier won the super-G. Three days after that, the bricklayer from Flachau won the giant slalom.

2004 Summer Olympics — Athens, Greece — Friday, Aug. 13

On Friday the 13th, the citizens of Athens woke up to haunting news.

The country’s two most famous track and field athletes were in the hospital after a claimed motorcycle accident the previous day. It turned into a full-fledged controversy over skipping a drug test.

Konstantinos Kenteris, the 2000 Olympic champion in the 200 meters, and Katerina Thanou, the 2000 silver medalist in the 100, never competed in the Athens Olympics. A modern-day Greek tragedy, they called it. Kenteris had been the favorite to light the Olympic cauldron that night. Both were disgraced and engulfed in a doping scandal.

Later that night, gold-medal sailor Nikolaos Kaklamanakis had the honors of lighting the cauldron on the only opening ceremony ever staged on Friday the 13th.

2012 Olympic track champion says gold medal stolen from his truck

*according to USA Today

Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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