Bode Miller

Bode Miller nearly fastest in Bormio downhill training

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Bode Miller began laying the groundwork for what could be a spectacular weekend, finishing second in the opening downhill training run in snow-swept Bormio, Italy on Friday.

Miller is coming off his best performance in a downhill this season, having placed fifth in Val Gardena a week ago. He was just .15 seconds off landing on the podium on the Saslong classic.

In Bormio, he found himself .20 seconds behind Italy’s Christof Innerhofer, who logged the fastest time of the day on the Stelvio course on which he posted the first of his six career World Cup victories in December of 2008.

“It’s always good to be back in Bormio,” Innerhofer told FIS. “My first big successes, my first victory and my first podium on this slope so I have great memories from the Stelvio. I am having fun this week as I know I can do really well.”

Miller has been solid throughout his career on this slope, winning the downhill in 2007. He has also finished fourth twice and fifth twice, most recently in 2011 which is the last time he raced there.

Overall, it was a solid showing in training by the Americans as Steve Nyman finished ninth, Travis Ganong came in 17th and Marco Sullivan finished 19th. A second training run will be contested Saturday, with the race slated for Sunday beginning at 5:45 am ET.

Conditions have been a great concern as heavy snowfalls at the top of the mountain forced organizers to lower the original starting position. While snow was falling at elevation, rain was altering the surface at the bottom section of the course.

Travel to Bormio was also an issue for some athletes. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who finished third in the training run behind Innerhofer and Miller and leads the World Cup overall standings, described his nightmarish trek to the event on his Facebook page.

“Another classic birthday celebration,” Svindal wrote. “I spent almost the whole day alone in my car fighting Italian traffic and a snow storm. The 26th is always travel day to Bormio ITA for the Christmas downhill race. Bormio is one of the hardest places in Europe to get too. There are no close airports and you have to cross at least one mountain pass to get here.

“My first attempt was Passo del Tonale that they decided to close down just as I got there. That meant going back the way I came, about 2 hours plus the 4 hour detour around the mountains. Like I said, another classic 26th of December and birthday celebration! But luckily I have plenty of other days that are sweet(!), so I’ll take it.”

Shaun White shows double cork 1440 in GoPro video

Simone Biles among Time Person of the Year finalists

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the uneven bars during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Simone Biles is one of 11 finalists for Time‘s Person of the Year.

Time‘s Person of the Year, named annually since 1927, has never been an individual athlete or team. Tennis player Billie Jean King was part of the “American Women” group named in 1975.

In 2015, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner was one of eight finalists.

The Person of the Year “is the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”

Biles, 19, is the only teenager finalist and is six years younger than the youngest-ever solo Person of the Year, Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Biles won four gold medals and one bronze in Rio, the largest collection for a female gymnast at one Olympics since 1988.

The Person of the Year will be announced on Wednesday morning on “Today.”

Here are the finalists, in alphabetical order:

Simone Biles
Hillary Clinton
CRISPR Scientists
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Nigel Farage
The Flint Whistleblowers
Beyoncé Knowles
Narendra Modi
Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump
Mark Zuckerberg

VIDEO: Biles shows Stephen Colbert how to stick the landing

Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua eyes 2018 Winter Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Pita Taufatofua of Tonga poses for a photo on the NBC Today show set at Copacabana Beach on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Tonga’s famous flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, said he wants to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics as a cross-country skier.

“I’m going to be taking my Olympic dream one step further,” Taufatofua said in an Olympic Channel video published Monday. “My goal is to let people see, if I can do it, they can do it. The goal is to hunt down that Olympic medal at the 2018 Olympics.”

Sure enough, Taufatofua already has an International Ski Federation bio page. The federation lists one other Tongan cross-country skier with a bio, Makeleta Stephan, who was last of 93 finishers in a 2015 World Championships event.

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary. Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his his shirtless, oiled-up appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

Judging by the Olympic Channel video, Taufatofua’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics look better for Tokyo 2020 than Pyeongchang 2018.

PHOTOS: Tongan flag bearer steals show at Opening Ceremony