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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

Mikaela Shiffrin wins Aspen World Cup slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin
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With a slalom win today in Aspen, Colo., Mikaela Shiffrin broke some of the barriers she had been chasing.

En route to her fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title – which would tie the record for the most with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider from 1992-95 – she became the first female skier to win four World Cup slalom races in a row since Austria’s Marlies Schild did it in the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Shiffrin became the first female skier from the U.S. to win a slalom World Cup race in Aspen. And she’s now tied with France’s Perrine Pelen for sixth overall with total slalom World Cup victories.

“I was pissed after I made that ridiculous mistake yesterday,” Shiffrin said to media, referencing yesterday’s giant slalom crash. Both her and Lindsey Vonn crashed and did not finish in Aspen’s giant slalom. “I tried to use that anger today.”

Shiffrin called the mistake a “brainfart” and Vonn dismissed it because “giant slalom isn’t [her] strongest event.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second behind Shiffrin, followed by Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

By finishing behind Shiffrin in Aspen, Zuzulova extends her slalom World Cup podium finish streak to four.

Hansdotter has the second-most second place World Cup slalom finishes at 13 total, including today’s race. Only Pernilla Wiberg, of Sweden, has more with a total of 14.

MORE: Shiffrin, Vonn discuss friendship and rivalry

Fencing great Valentina Vezzali fails to qualify for Rio 2016

Mario Monti, Valentina Vezzali
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – Six-time Olympic champion fencer Valentina Vezzali has failed to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

The 41-year-old Vezzali was eliminated in the second round of the foil event at the Trofeo Inalpi meet Saturday, while Italian teammate Arianna Errigo reached the semifinals and gained the necessary points to qualify.

Vezzali won at least one gold at the last five Olympics in either individual or team foil. She has a total of nine Olympic medals and 25 at world championships.

Her second son was born in 2013, the year in which she also became a member of Italy’s parliament.

Vezzali told the Gazzetta dello Sport this week that “I had another son and it was really difficult to come back. … I don’t think I have anything else to prove.”

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