Benjamin Raich

Alpine skiing injuries, retirements pile up

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The Alpine skiing World Cup season doesn’t start for more than a month, but several notables are already sidelined.

Start with Austrian Benjamin Raich, the four-time Olympic medalist from 2002 and 2006. Raich, 35, is attempting to make his fourth Olympic team in 2014. He’ll have to come back from a motorbike accident to do so.

Raich’s 175-pound bike landed on his right leg in an early August crash, tearing a muscle in his thigh, according to The Associated Press. He didn’t join the Austrian team for preseason training in Chile, a decision he said was made before the accident.

Raich, the overall World Cup winner in 2006, said he considered retiring and that the Sochi Olympics will be his last, should he make the team.

Austria, long an Alpine power, is home to the world’s best slalom skier, Marcel Hirscher, and medal threats in speed events Klaus Kroell and Hannes Reichelt. But its depth is not too much that Raich couldn’t make it at his advanced age, if fully recovered.

Raich’s longtime girlfriend is three-time Olympic medalist Marlies Schild, not to be confused with Martina Schild, who announced her retirement this week.

Martina, 31, won silver in the 2006 Olympic downhill but had not made the podium in a World Cup or a World Championship race since before the 2010 Olympics. She missed all of last season with a back injury, the same pain forcing her retirement.

“Mentally, I’m no longer ready to push myself to the limit,” she said, according to the Swiss Ski Federation.

Canada’s Kelly VanderBeek, 29 and fourth in the 2006 Olympic super-G, also retired, citing knee problems stemming from tearing her MCL and PCL in a December 2009 crash.

France’s Marion Rolland, the reigning downhill world champion, was set to have an MRI this week after injuring her right knee in a training fall in Chile on Sunday. Rolland, 30, had surgery on her right knee in 2007 and 2010.

Though Rolland won the world title, she may not be among the biggest threats to reigning Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn in Sochi. Rolland has never finished better than sixth in the World Cup downhill standings, a better indicator of Olympic prospects than the World Championships.

Finally, there’s Swede Jens Byggmark, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist in the slalom. Byggmark tore knee ligaments in a training fall earlier this month and announced he would miss the Olympics. The 28-year-old’s best World Cup season came six years ago, but he was top 10 in the slalom the last two years.

Rent out Bode Miller’s house

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

Fenway Big Air
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Fenway Park will host some of the world’s best freeskiers in the one-of-a-kind Big Air at Fenway, live on NBC Sports Live Extra on Friday night.

Big air skiers will descend from a ramp that’s four times higher than the Green Monster inside the hallowed Boston Red Sox home.

Ski big air is most like slopestyle of the current Olympic disciplines, except skiers get one jump per run.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

On Thursday, Canadian Max Parrot and American Julia Marino won the snowboard big air competitions at Fenway Park.

Big Air at Fenway coverage will conclude with an NBC show on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

MORE: Olympic champ suffers concussion at Big Air at Fenway practice

Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympics open with homages to 1994

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In an homage to the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics, Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway lit the Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympic cauldron to cap the Opening Ceremony on Friday night.

The princess’ father, Crown Prince Haakon, lit the 1994 Olympic cauldron in a very similar fashion (video here). Princess Ingrid Alexandra was born in 2004.

The Opening Ceremony, held outdoors at a ski jump (same venue as 1994) in sub-freezing temperatures, included a speech from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“I’m just a little bit too old to compete in the YOG,” Bach said, urging listeners to use the hashtag #IloveYOG during the nine-day Winter Games.

The ceremony included Olympic legends, such as 2010 figure skating gold medalist Yuna Kim and eight-time Olympic cross-country champion Bjorn Daehlie carrying the Olympic flag.

Marit Bjoergen, a 10-time Olympic medalist cross-country skier, handed the Olympic flame to the princess.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET, plus daily coverage throughout the Winter Games. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on U.S. Olympic medalists from Sochi