Kikkan Randall leads U.S. Olympic cross-country team eyeing history

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Kikkan Randall can achieve two firsts at her fourth Olympics.

The Alaskan could become the first U.S. woman to win a cross-country skiing medal and the first American, man or woman, to win a cross-country skiing gold medal.

Cross-country skiing has been on the Olympic program since 1924 for men and 1952 for women. Bill Koch is the only American with an Olympic medal, silver from the 30km in 1976.

Randall, 31, leads a 14-member team to the Sochi Olympics announced Wednesday. It includes two other four-time Olympians, Kris Freeman and Torin Koos

Randall made her Olympic debut at 19 in 2002. Her best Olympic finish was sixth in the team sprint in 2010.

She’s a gold-medal contender in the individual sprint Feb. 11, having won the World Cup season title last year and individual World Cup races the last two weeks.

Her top foe in Sochi could be Norwegian Marit Bjorgen, who won four gold medals at the 2013 World Championships, including the individual sprint. Bjorgen also won the event at the 2010 Olympics, where she won three golds to bring her overall Olympic tally to seven.

Randall could also win a gold medal in the team sprint. She and Jessie Diggins are the reigning world champions.

The U.S. cross-country team includes siblings Erik and Sadie Bjornsen, which makes six total sets of siblings on the U.S. Olympic Team so far.

They join curlers Craig and Erika Brown, figure skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani, hockey players Amanda and Phil Kessel and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux and snowboarders Arielle and Taylor Gold

Another set of siblings is likely to be named later Wednesday — Nordic combined skiers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher.

Here is the full U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing team:

Men
Erik Bjornsen
Kris Freeman — 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Brian Gregg
Simi Hamilton — 2010 Olympian
Noah Hoffman
Torin Koos — 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Andy Newell — 2006, 2010 Olympian

Women
Sadie Bjornsen
Holly Brooks — 2010 Olympian
Sophie Caldwell
Jessie Diggins
Kikkan Randall — 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Ida Sargent
Liz Stephen — 2010 Olympian

Snowboarder who lives in truck makes Olympics

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37