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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

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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