Danny Davis

Danny Davis preps for Sochi by winning Winter X Games halfpipe

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Danny Davis made the most of his first Winter X Games halfpipe final appearance, winning the biggest pre-Olympic competition in Aspen, Colo., on Sunday night.

“I can’t believe it,” Davis said on ESPN. “I’m gonna ride this switch method train as long as it’ll last.”

Davis, one of four U.S. halfpipe snowboarders going to Sochi, prevailed with a second-run score of 95 points. He also likes to recreate “Dumb and Dumber” scenes.

Louie Vito, who did not qualify for the Olympics, came in second with 93 points. Greg Bretz, who is going to Sochi, was third with 89.33.

The top qualifier into the final, Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov, failed to cleanly land his patented 1440 YOLO Flip in all three runs and finished sixth.

Shaun White, who won every halfpipe title from 2008 to 2013, skipped X Games for the first time this millennium.

“It’s bittersweet when Shaun’s not here,” Davis said. “He’s the one to beat, but forget it. I’ll take it.”

Podladtchikov, colloquially known as I-Pod, and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who is 15, are considered the top challengers to White’s bid for an Olympic halfpipe threepeat Feb. 11. Hirano did not compete at X Games one year after coming in second to White.

On Jan. 6, 2010, Davis beat White en route to what looked like his first Olympic berth. But in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, he drunkenly rode an ATV with friends into a metal fence, breaking his third lumbar vertebrae and shattering his pelvis.

Davis has said he valued a Winter X Games gold over Olympic gold. As for Sochi now?

“I think you can tell that the Americans are looking pretty darn good,” Davis said.

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Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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