Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson walking normally 2 months after knee surgery

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NEW YORK — World champion Sarah Hendrickson shed her knee brace a week and a half ago and remains on track for a January return to ski jumping, she said Monday.

Hendrickson, 19, tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in an Aug. 21 crash in Germany that left her in tears. She underwent surgery Aug. 29 and showed up to the U.S. Olympic Media Summit in early October with a massive black brace stabilizing her leg.

On Monday, she walked without encumbrance into a Kellogg’s sponsor function.

“Which is not as easy as you would think it would be after walking with a straight leg for seven weeks,” she said.

Hendrickson said that she’s gotten 60 percent of the strength back in her leg over the past two weeks.

“I’m well on track for what my goal is,” she said.

And that goal is to take her first jumps in the beginning to middle of January so coaches can make an informed decision whether to put her on the U.S. Olympic Team as a discretionary selection.

The U.S. Olympic Team is expected to be composed of four women. The winner at the Olympic Trials from Dec. 28-29 in Park City, Utah, will get the first spot. The next three are due to go to the top three ranked women in the World Cup standings as of Jan. 19 or 20.

But the Olympic selection procedures include a discretionary selection clause that could allow Hendrickson to be picked even if she doesn’t have any World Cup points.

Women’s ski jumping will be part of the Olympic program for the first time in Sochi. At her best, Hendrickson is a gold-medal threat along with Japan’s Sara Takanashi.

“My body’s reacting really well,” Hendrickson said. “I’ve had no setbacks.”

Video: U.S. Olympic champion traverses Europe as Aquaman

Russia names flag bearer for Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  Sergey Tetyukhin #8 of Russia celebrates a point in the second set against Poland during the Men's Volleyball quarterfinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Earls Court on August 8, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Russia’s depleted Olympic team named its flag bearer for the Rio Games Opening Ceremony, giving the honor to volleyball player Sergei Tetyukhin, who’s set to make his sixth Olympic appearance at 40 years old.

The announcement came via the Instagram page for Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who has become somewhat of a spokesperson for the Russian team amidst the country’s doping scandal. Isinbayeva will not compete in Rio since her nation’s track and field team is banned, but she spoke to Russia’s athletes during a ceremony Wednesday.

“Today, as never before, we need to stay united and become a family,” Tetyukhin said before the athletes departed for Rio on Thursday.

Russia’s flag bearer was set to be announced Wednesday, according to Russian news agency TASS, but Isinbayeva said in her Instagram post (according to Google translate), “Flag bearer at the Olympics in Rio have already been defined, it is a great athlete, Olympic champion, Sergey Tetyukhin volleyball. Yesterday at a reception at the President he acted with dignity and promised to fight for the victory in Rio.”

The Russian men’s volleyball team has won a medal at the past four Olympics, but Tetyukhin’s time with the team began at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Russia placed fourth there, then took silver in 2000, bronze in 2004 and 2008, and gold in 2012. Tetyukhin was Russia’s third-leading scorer in London.

The team will be an outside medal contender in Rio. After winning the FIVB World League in 2013, the Russians have placed no better than fifth since. They finished fifth at the 2014 World Championship, fourth at the 2015 World Cup, and sixth at the 2015 European Championship.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova was Russia’s flag bearer for the London Olympic Opening Ceremony, but she will miss the Rio Games while serving a drug suspension.

MORE: Number of Russian athletes banned from Olympics reaches 105

Who will be the first U.S. gold medalist in Rio?

Katie Ledecky, Leah Smith
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The U.S. has no gold-medal favorites on the first day of the Olympics, which puts it in jeopardy of not reaching the top of the podium on Day 1 of the Games for the first time since 1996.

Who will be the first U.S. medalist and gold medalist in Rio? Let’s take a look.

The 12 Day 1 finals on Saturday, Aug. 6, in somewhat chronological order:

Shooting: Women’s air rifle
Shooting: Men’s air pistol
Cycling: Men’s road race
Fencing: Women’s epee
Archery: Men’s team event
Judo: Women’s 48kg
Judo: Men’s 60kg
Weightlifting: Women’s 48kg
Swimming: Men’s 400m individual medley
Swimming: Men’s 400m freestyle
Swimming: Women’s 400m individual medley
Swimming: Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay

The U.S. has a great shot at silver or bronze medals in some of these events. The men’s archery team took silver at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2015 World Championships. In swimming, Chase Kalisz and Maya DiRado captured world championships bronze and silver medals in the 400m IMs last year, and the women’s 4x100m free relay has always made the podium (Australia is a heavy favorite though).

If the U.S. does not earn gold on Aug. 6, it will snap a streak of 20 straight days that it has made the top of a Summer Olympic podium dating to the 2008 Beijing Games.

The U.S. was all but assured a gold medal on the first day of the Olympics in 2004 and 2012 in the men’s 400m individual medley, with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, respectively. Neither are swimming it this year.

In 2008, fencer Mariel Zagunis led a U.S. sweep of the women’s sabre on the first day in Beijing. In 2000, U.S. shooter Nancy Johnson took gold in the first medal event of the Sydney Games.

On Day 2 in Rio, the U.S. is almost surely going to take gold.

There are 14 finals on Sunday, Aug. 7, in somewhat chronological order:

Shooting: Women’s air pistol
Shooting: Women’s trap
Cycling: Women’s road race
Diving: Women’s synchronized springboard
Weightlifting: Women’s 53kg
Judo: Women’s 52kg
Judo: Men’s 52kg
Archery: Women’s team
Fencing: Men’s foil
Weightlifting: Men’s 56kg
Swimming: Women’s 100m butterfly
Swimming: Men’s 100m breaststroke
Swimming: Women’s 400m freestyle
Swimming: Men’s 4x100m freestyle relay

One could argue the U.S. is a gold-medal favorite in one of these events — the women’s 400m freestyle. Katie Ledecky is the two-time reigning world champion, world-record holder and the fastest woman in the world this year by 1.67 seconds. The second-fastest woman this year is another American, Leah Smith, so it would be shocking if the U.S. does not finish the first weekend of the Olympics with at least one gold medal.

MORE: Complete U.S. Olympic team roster