Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van added to U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Team

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Sarah Hendrickson reached her goal, making the first U.S. Olympic women’s ski jumping team five months after blowing out her right knee in a training crash.

Hendrickson and Lindsey Van joined Olympic Trials winner Jessica Jerome on the U.S. Olympic Team announced Wednesday. A fourth woman could be added later this week if other countries don’t fill their quotas.

Women’s ski jumping will debut at the Olympics after a decade-long fight for inclusion.

“All of these girls … deserve a medal for what they’ve done for the sport,” U.S. coach Alan Alborn said.

The men’s team is Olympic Trials winner Nick Fairall, 2010 Olympians Nick Alexander and Peter Frenette and 2006 and 2010 Olympian Anders Johnson.

Hendrickson, 19, tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in an Aug. 21 crash in Germany that left her in tears. She underwent surgery Aug. 29.

“When I crashed back in August, I laid at the bottom of the hill and thought everything was over,” Hendrickson said. “My dreams of being an Olympian were over.”

She gained hope after consulting with doctors in the U.S. that she could return in time for Sochi.

“I decided to put my head down and work as hard as I could every single day until this day so that I could make my dreams come true,” Hendrickson said.

She showed up to the U.S. Olympic Media Summit in early October with a massive black brace stabilizing her leg. She walked without encumbrance by the end of October and has been jumping in training the last two weeks in Utah.

“Sarah has distinguished herself over the past three seasons as one of the world’s top competitors,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association executive vice president Luke Bodensteiner said. “Her accident in August prevented her from competing in the World Cup, but her subsequent rehab was effective, she’s maintained a high level of fitness and her return to the jumping hill has shown us that she’s ready to compete at the top end of her sport.”

At her best, the world champion Hendrickson is considered a gold-medal threat to Japan’s Sara Takanashi, who is 17 and has won eight of nine World Cup events this season.

“Sara’s jumping at a very high level right now,” said Hendrickson, who has watched competitions despite being sidelined. “It’s really hard to say what’s going to happen [in Sochi]. I know what types of jumps I have, but I have no idea how they compare to her right now. … I’ll definitely have to show up on my best day to put a competition to her because she’s jumping very well.”

Van, 29, was one of the women who spearheaded the  fight for inclusion in the Olympics. She is the 2009 world champion.

“It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster,” Van said of the long road to the Olympics. “I can’t say that we’ve gotten off it yet.”

There is one women’s event compared to three men’s events in Sochi, including a team event.

A U.S. men’s ski jumper hasn’t won a World Cup medal since 1991 nor placed in the top 10 of an Olympic event since 1988.

That likely won’t change in Sochi, where the medal favorites hail from Austria, Germany, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.

Here is the U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Team:

Men
Nick Alexander
Nick Fairall
Peter Frenette
Anders Johnson

Women
Sarah Hendrickson
Jessica Jerome
Lindsey Van

Russian men’s ski jump coach against women ski jumping

Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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MORE: Dawn Staley to coach U.S. women at Tokyo 2020

Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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