Lindsey Van

U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined Trials preview

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They fought for a decade for Olympic inclusion. Now, women’s ski jumpers are set to vie for the sport’s first U.S. Olympic berth.

The U.S. Olympic Trials for ski jumping and Nordic combined will take place at 2002 Olympic venues in Park City, Utah, this weekend.

The winner of each event — three athletes total — will earn a nomination to the U.S. Olympic Team. The rest of the ski jumping and Nordic combined teams will be named by Jan. 22.

In all, the U.S. Olympic Team for ski jumping can include up to four women and four men and for Nordic combined can include up to five men. This is if International Ski Federation quotas hold through Jan. 19. Quotas are determined by countries’ results in international competitions.

Here’s the U.S. Olympic Trials schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Saturday
Nordic combined ski jump — 12:15-12:45 p.m.
Nordic combined 10K cross-country — 4-4:35 p.m.

Sunday
Ski jumping men’s and women’s jump one — 1:50-2:05 p.m. (LIVE on NBC)
Ski jumping men’s and women’s jump two — 2:36-2:52 p.m. (LIVE on NBC)

The NBC broadcast Sunday (1:30-3 p.m. ET) will include a Nordic combined recap.

Here’s an event-by-event preview:

Women’s Ski Jumping

Women’s ski jumping will no doubt be the focus of this weekend. The International Olympic Committee added women’s jumpers into the Olympics in 2011, paving the way for this first edition of U.S. Olympic Trials.

“This is such a historical season already with the first chance for women to jump in the Games,” U.S. jumper Jessica Jerome said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “Now to be able to compete with the nation’s top field to earn our nomination to the team will turn one of our lifelong dreams into reality.”

Five women are essentially in the running for four spots in Sochi. Four of them are competing this weekend.

Reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson remains out after tearing the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in an Aug. 21 crash. Hendrickson, 19, expects to return to jumping on snow in the second week of January, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, and compete in World Cup events later in the month.

Hendrickson is expected to be placed on the Olympic Team. The other three spots ought to come down to Jerome, Lindsey VanAbby Hughes and Alissa Johnson. Barring a shocking upset, one of them will wrap up the first berth Sunday.

“It’s really nerve-racking,” Hughes told KSL News in Salt Lake City. “We’ve never been in this situation before. It’s really intense, but it’s really exciting at the same time.”

Nordic combined

The U.S. Nordic combined team isn’t quite the Olympic medal threat it was in 2010, when it broke through with a team silver medal, one individual gold and two individual silvers.

No U.S. man has placed better than seventh in this season’s World Cup events. The U.S. did not reach the podium in the first two team events, either.

Expect the competition Saturday to come down to three men — brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher and 2010 Olympic champion Bill Demong.

The younger Taylor Fletcher made the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team at age 19, but Bryan did not. However, Taylor did not compete in the Vancouver team event. Thus, neither owns an Olympic medal.

Bryan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 3, underwent chemotherapy for seven years and survived a stroke before it went into remission.

They are opposites in competition. Bryan is better at jumping. Taylor is stronger at cross-country skiing.

The Fletchers traded the top American spot in World Cup standings the last three seasons and are expected to make the Sochi Olympic Team regardless of what happens Saturday.

As is Demong, eyeing his fifth Olympic berth. Nothing will top his experience in Vancouver, when he won the first U.S. Nordic combined Olympic gold medal, successfully proposed to his wife and was named flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony on the same day.

Demong, 33, is not the most experienced skier at trials. That would be Todd Lodwick, 37, trying to become the first six-time U.S. Winter Olympian.

“I have to make sure I am doing everything every day to get there,” Lodwick told TeamUSA.org earlier this month. “It comes with a lot of personal gratification to get to the Olympic Games, not just once, but multiple times.”

Men’s Ski Jumping

The U.S. men’s ski jumping program has long sought a boost. It hasn’t produced a World Cup medal since 1991 and hasn’t put anybody or team in the top 10 of an Olympic event since 1988.

The contenders this week include the three members of the 2010 Olympic Team — Peter FrenetteAnders Johnson and Nick Alexander — and Nick Fairall. 

Vote on Lindsey Vonn’s helmet design at Sochi Olympics

Helen Maroulis lifts Teddy Roosevelt at Nationals game (video)

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U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist Helen Maroulis took down a 13-time world champion in Rio. As part of her homecoming celebration, she lifted up the 26th President of the United States.

Maroulis followed fellow Maryland native Katie Ledecky in being honored at a Washington Nationals game Thursday night.

Maroulis did not throw a ceremonial first pitch, as Ledecky did, making headlines using Bryce Harper as a medal rack.

But Maroulis had her own viral moment, showing off her strength in lifting Teddy Roosevelt off the ground after the famed Presidents Race.

Maroulis, who became the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion in Rio by dethroning Japanese legend Saori Yoshida, aims to return to training after a break and wrestle through the 2020 Tokyo Games.

MORE: Historic win for Maroulis came with stunning dietary discipline

Appeal for harsher Oscar Pistorius murder sentence denied

Oscar Pistorius
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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African judge on Friday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors for a harsher sentence against Oscar Pistorius who was found guilty of murder for killing his girlfriend in 2013.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said the state’s appeal to extend the six-year sentence against the 29-year-old double amputee Olympic sprinter had a limited prospect of success.

“I am not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success for an appeal,” she said in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of Feb. 14. He claimed he thought she was an intruder. The state charged that he shot her in anger after an argument. Pistorius was found guilty of murder and sentenced by Masipa to six years in prison.

The sentence was “shockingly light” and that the judge should have used 15-year minimum as starting point as Steenkamp had suffered a “horrendous death,” said prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Pistorius never offered an acceptable explanation for having fired four shots through the toilet door, he said.

The fact that Pistorius fired four shots using hollow point bullets that are designed to inflict maximum damage meant the possibility of death was more likely and should have been an aggravating factor, said Nel.

The state may appeal Masipa’s decision at the Supreme Court of Appeals in the city of Bloemfontein, but is yet to indicate whether it will do so.

MORE: Oscar Pistorius timeline since London Olympics