Seth Wescott

Seth Wescott ‘getting close’ in return from knee injury (video)

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Seth Wescott knows a thing or two about coming back to win Olympic gold.

In 2006, the man from Maine passed Slovakian Radoslav Zidek in the second half of the first Olympic snowboardcross final and edged him out for victory by less than the length of a snowboard.

In 2010, Wescott moved from last place early on to beat Canadian Mike Robertson for gold, also by a matter of inches.

His comeback for the Sochi Olympic snowboardcross is already in motion, two months before the Games.

Wescott, 37, underwent “a complete reconstruction” of his left ACL in April after falling into an Alaska crevasse while shooting part of a film for ski and snowboard director Warren Miller. He tore the ACL and broke his tibia.

“I basically ended up hitting a wall at 40 mph, and when I got to the bottom I knew right away that something was very wrong,” Wescott told TeamUSA.org in August. “The ACL was just gone. Not exactly the way I wanted to start my summer training.”

Wescott, who could become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three straight times, said his knee is “getting close” to competition level on TODAY on Thursday morning.

He’s been testing the knee in Soelden, Austria, earlier this month and, more recently, at home at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley.

Wescott said he will travel with the U.S. team to Lake Louise, Alberta, for a World Cup stop Dec. 21 but doesn’t think he’ll compete there.

“Buying myself three more weeks through the Christmas holidays and just the amount of training that I’ll be able to get in that time, I’ll have some real progress,” Wescott said on TODAY.

Wescott is one of three Olympians trying to become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three straight times (Bonnie Blair is the only U.S. woman to do it). Fellow snowboarder Shaun White (halfpipe) and speed skater Shani Davis (1000m) also won in 2006 and 2010.

Wescott, if they all make the Olympic team, would be the last of the three to make the attempt. Men’s snowboardcross in Sochi is Feb. 17, five days after Davis’ 1000m and six days after White’s halfpipe.

He might even go after a fourth gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. Wescott’s been inspired by surfing legend Kelly Slater, who at 41 is trying to win his 12th world title this week.

“I never would have thought, even post-Torino, that I’d be going right now,” said Wescott, who will be 41 in 2018. “To be honest, I’m getting better at it every year. … The time point where I decide to walk away will be when I feel that there’s stagnation.”

Olympic snowboardcross contender breaks collarbone in training

Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 06:  Yuliya Stepanova looks on after finishing last in the Womens 800m heats during day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics )
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Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova is appealing her ban from the Olympics, saying it was based on incorrect information and dubious legal grounds.

Stepanova sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee contending she never said she wouldn’t compete for the Russian team, as the IOC stated. The IOC would not make any exception for her to compete under a neutral flag.

She says the IOC’s ban of any Russian athlete who has previously served a doping ban is not permitted – a ruling the Court of Arbitration for Sport made in 2011.

Stepanova was an 800-meter runner who got caught for doping, but later came forward to expose the Russian doping system. She served a two-year doping ban before turning whistleblower, and is now living and training in the United States at an undisclosed location.

The IOC said Stepanova did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.

Both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track’s governing body, the IAAF, recommended she be allowed in the Olympics.

MORE: Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

Gabby Douglas ‘a very strong possibility’ for all-around, Martha Karolyi says

Gabby Douglas
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Gabby Douglas has “a very strong possibility” to get a chance to defend her Olympic all-around title in Rio, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said Monday.

“Gabby’s preparation is in a very, very good direction, and I foresee that she can be in the all-around, but we’re not taking this decision as of now yet,” Karolyi said.

The U.S. will put no more than three women from its five-woman team in the all-around in qualifying. The top two Americans in qualifying will advance to the all-around final, the most prestigious individual competition in the sport.

“We have a tentative lineup, but that’s absolutely tentative and we would not reveal that lineup at the moment yet, because most likely there will be changes as time goes,” said Karolyi, adding that the lineup won’t be finalized until next week.

Simone Biles is considered a lock to be one of the all-arounders in qualifying. Who joins her is unclear.

Douglas and Aly Raisman were tapped at the 2015 World Championships, with Biles and Douglas topping Raisman in qualifying and then going one-two in the all-around final.

However, both Raisman and first-year senior Laurie Hernandez finished higher than Douglas in the all-around at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials in the last month.

Karolyi said that Douglas, who fell off the balance beam on both nights at the Olympic Trials, has improved at a pre-Olympic training camp. Karolyi also said that Douglas would not perform the difficult Amanar vault in Rio, which carries five tenths more in start value than the vault Douglas used at the Olympic Trials.

Biles and Raisman both perform the Amanar. If Biles, Douglas and Raisman do the all-around in qualifying, Douglas will go in with a start-value disadvantage in the chase to grab two available final spots.

In 2012, Douglas, Raisman and Jordyn Wieber all did the all-around in qualifying, with the 2011 World all-around champion Wieber finishing third out of the Americans (and fourth overall), missing the all-around final.

MORE: USA Gymnastics agrees to buy Karolyi Ranch