Julia Clukey

Julia Clukey misses U.S. Olympic Luge Team

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The best U.S. women’s luger from the last World Cup season will not go to the Olympics.

Julia Clukey, who ranked sixth in the 2012-13 World Cup standings, was beaten out for the final U.S. Olympic Team spot by 19-year-old U.S. junior champion Summer Britcher on Friday night, USA Luge confirmed.

U.S. Olympic qualification for luge is done via a tier system with three women making the team for Sochi.

Tier one is a top-five result on the World Cup tour this season. Erin Hamlin achieved that last week and booked her third Olympic berth. Kate Hansen also earned that Friday night in Park City, Utah, by finishing fourth.

Tier two is two top-nine results on the World Cup tour this season. Nobody other than Hamlin or Hansen had achieved that going into Park City’s race Friday night. Britcher had one eighth-place finish in Igls, Austria, three weeks ago. Clukey had zero top-nine finishes.

Britcher was in fourth place after the first of two runs Friday. Clukey was in eighth. If the standings held after the second and final run, Britcher would make the Olympic team over Clukey.

They didn’t hold, but Britcher still barely hung on. Britcher finished ninth for her second top-nine finish to achieve tier two status. Clukey finished sixth. If she had finished fifth, she would have earned tier one status and leaped past Britcher for an Olympic spot.

Hansen and Britcher both made their first Olympic teams.

@USA_LUGE athlete Summer Britcher makes the US @OLYMPICS team! Wow! Down to the last slider!

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The two U.S. Olympic doubles teams were also determined Friday. Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall and Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman will go to Sochi.

Mortensen and Griffall earned a spot based on World Cup results. Niccum and Terdiman got in by winning a raceoff, The Associated Press confirmed.

Mortensen and Griffall have led U.S. doubles on the World Cup tour the last two seasons, ranking 10th last year and 10th this season going into Park City. They were ninth in Friday’s race.

It will be the first Olympic appearance for Mortensen, 28, and the second for Griffall, 29. Griffall took eighth in 2006 with Dan Joye.

Niccum and Terdiman were the top U.S. doubles team in 2011-12, ranking seventh on the World Cup circuit. They missed nearly all of last season after Niccum tore an Achilles tendon.

Niccum, 35, is going to his third Olympics. He placed 23rd in singles in 2006 and sixth with Joye in doubles in 2010. Terdiman is going to his first Olympics. Terdiman, 24, is an Olympic rookie.

The men’s team will include Chris Mazdzer. The other two U.S. spots will be determined after race results Saturday.

Park City World Cup

Women
1. Natalie Geisenberger (GER) 1:27.628
2. Anke Wischnewski (GER) 1:27.821
3. Alex Gough (CAN) 1:27.889
4. Kate Hansen (USA) 1:27.929
6. Julia Clukey (USA) 1:28.003
8. Erin Hamlin (USA) 1:28.014
9. Summer Britcher (USA) 1:28.023

Doubles
1. Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (GER) 1:27.326
2. Andreas Lingerer/Wolfgang Lingerer (AUT) 1:27.488
3. Toni Eggert/Sascha Benecken (GER) 1:27.547
9. Matt Mortensen/Preston Griffall (USA) 1:28.080
11. Christian Niccum/Jayson Terdiman (USA) 1:28.153

U.S. breakthrough in skeleton World Cup

John Shuster, 30 pounds lighter, rallies for 4th Olympic curling berth

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John Shuster is going to a fourth Olympics. It’s one more chance to prove Urban Dictionary wrong.

Shuster, 30 pounds lighter since his second straight Olympic failure in Sochi, led a team that beat Heath McCormick‘s squad at the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in Omaha on Saturday night.

Shuster, Tyler GeorgeMatt Hamilton and John Landsteiner lost the opener of a best-of-three finals series on Thursday.

They came back to deliver in a pair of must-win games, 9-4 on Friday night and 7-5 on Saturday, after spending each day at the Omaha Zoo.

The new-look Shuster — leaner and, at least this weekend, clutch — would astonish those who know him by scenes at the last two Olympics.

After taking bronze in 2006 as a role player, he led the last two U.S. Olympic teams to 2-7 records in 2010 and in 2014. Last place in Vancouver, where he was benched after an 0-4 start. Next to last place in Sochi.

After the last Olympics, the former bartender from Chisholm, Minn., was left off USA Curling’s 10-man high performance team.

He took it as motivation to get in shape.

Shuster, a father of a 2- and a 4-year-old who once said, “If I don’t have pizza three or four times a week, I’m not happy,” now totes meal replacement shakes. He’s starting to enjoy Olympic lifting.

Shuster, George, Hamilton and Landsteiner, all absent from that USA Curling high performance list, formed their own team. They became Team USA in their first season together and represented the Stars and Stripes at worlds in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Their results — fourth, third and fifth —  marked the best string of U.S. men’s or women’s finishes at that level in a decade.

Shuster is set to join Debbie McCormick as the only Americans to curl at four Olympics. The sport was part of the first Winter Games in 1924, then absent as a medal sport until 1998.

“I don’t think it’s about the four Olympics for me,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “What this is about — and what I’m about — is getting my teammates to now. I have two new Olympians on this team, and I know how special that is.”

George, the 35-year-old vice skip for Shuster, led a team that lost to Shuster in the 2010 Olympic Trials final. The liquor store manager from Duluth, Minn., is going to his first Winter Games.

As is the 28-year-old Hamilton, whose younger sister qualified for PyeongChang earlier Saturday.

Landsteiner, a 27-year-old corrosion engineer, played with Shuster since 2011, including in Sochi.

Alternate Joe Polo can go 12 years between Olympic appearances after taking bronze on that Torino team.

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MORE: U.S. Winter Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

Katie Ledecky wins race by 54 seconds, breaks record

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Katie Ledecky is back at Stanford and back to pulverizing distance races.

The sophomore and five-time Olympic champion won a 1,650-yard freestyle by 54.45 seconds at a meet at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

The runner-up was in a different heat; Ledecky won her heat by 1:02.16.

Ledecky lowered her own American record, clocking 15:03.31. She had the previous mark of 15:03.92 set last Nov. 20.

Ledecky had every swimmer lapped in the 25-yard pool before the halfway point and ended up lapping everyone twice.

The men also raced a 1,650 on Saturday. The winner clocked 15:18.95, which was 15.64 seconds slower than Ledecky’s time.

Full results are here.

The 1,650 is the longest race on the NCAA program, while the longest race at the Olympics and world championships is the 1500m.

The No. 2 woman all-time in the 1,650 is triple 2008 Olympic medalist Katie Hoff, a full 21.04 seconds slower.

Ledecky owns the 1500m world record, too, 13.4 seconds faster than any other woman in history.

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MORE: Michael Phelps’ discussion with Katie Ledecky after 2017 Worlds