Bode Miller 5th in final Bormio downhill training

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For the second straight day, Bode Miller turned in a solid downhill training run in Bormio, Italy, finishing fifth in Saturday’s final tune-up.

Miller, who finished second in the opening training run on Friday, found himself about a half-second behind Canada’s Erik Guay, who had the fastest time of the day at 1:52.81. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt was second, followed by 2013 world champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and David Poisson of France, the 2013 Worlds bronze medalist.

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 at the Saslong classic, which was won by Guay.

Behind Miller, the next highest finisher among Americans were Marco Sullivan in 13th, Travis Ganong in 15th, and Steve Nyman in 21st.

Not surprisingly, skiers amped up the level of aggressiveness in their second trips down the Stelvio, which has also seen tremendous improvements in course conditions a day after a heavy snow storm. Guay’s winning time was nearly a full second faster than the winning time put down by Italy’s Christof Innerhofer on the first training run.

“The top part is a little bit easier than in previous years with the fresh snow, but the middle and bottom sections are typical Bormio – rock hard, pretty icy, bumpy and hard on the legs as usual,” Guay told the FIS. “It still feels better than in the past years to me. Some years I was quite intimidated by it while this year I feel ready for it.

“In the first training run I skied well but was missing a bit of intensity. That is what training runs are for. Today the goal was to be a little more active and tomorrow I want to stick to the same plan, I’ll try not to do too much and ski a clean run top to bottom.”

Guay and Poisson have never landed on the podium in Bormio. Reichelt won the downhill there in 2012 and a super-G on the course in 2008. Svindal’s lone podium there came in 2012 when he finished behind Reichelt and Italy’s Dominik Paris, who is not racing this weekend while nursing an injury. 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.

“The conditions are getting better, especially the upper part and traverse,” Reichelt told FIS. “I like it here, I like the challenge this slope puts ahead of you. Training was good and I wouldn’t complain about a run like today’s in the race.”

The race is slated for tomorrow beginning at 5:45 am ET.

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.