Sara Takanashi

Olympic gold medal contender Takanashi wins at Hinzenbach

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Expected to be one of the primary figures in the battle for the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s ski jumping, Japan’s Sara Takanashi earned her ninth FIS World Cup win of the season today in windy Hinzenbach, Austria.

The 17-year-old Takanashi, who figures to duel with Team USA’s Sarah Hendrickson for that Sochi gold, will have her final event before the Olympics tomorrow (again at Hinzenbach).

Her jumps of 87.0 and 90 meters led her to a score of 231.7, enough to top Austrian runner-up Daniela Iraschko-Stolz and her score of 226.9 (jumps of 82 and 90.5 meters). Maja Vtic of Slovenia was third (score: 223.5; jumps of 88.5 and 85.0 meters), earning her first career World Cup podium.

“The wind was changing a lot, as you could see,” Takanashi said in an FIS release. “But I did my best and at the end I could win. This success gives me self-confidence for the Olympic Games.”

Takanashi is looking forward to competing in Sochi and, in particular, with Hendrickson – who returned to jumping last month after sustaining a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee during a crash in Germany last August.

“It’s not so much fun jumping without [Hendrickson],” she said about her American counterpart in December. “I have learned a lot of things from her. To me, she is a sort of icon rather than a rival. I don’t consider myself champion.”

The inaugural Olympic women’s ski jumping competition takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Jessica Jerome wins first U.S. Olympic Trials in women’s ski jumping (VIDEO)

President Obama to female Olympians: ‘Y’all crushed it’ (video)

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President Barack Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Obama opened his speech by saying that he had planned on doing a floor routine with Simone Biles, before ultimately deciding that the room was too crowded. First Lady Michelle Obama interjected to remind the crowd that her husband “can’t touch his toes.”

The President then singled out the athletic accomplishments of Olympians including Biles, Michelle Carter, Simone Manuel, Claressa Shields, Kristin Armstrong, Kim Rhode, Allyson Felix, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, Kristi Castlin, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

He also recognized: Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, Sam Kendricks, the U.S. Army reservist who put down his pole and stood at attention when the national anthem started playing, Will Claye, who proposed to U.S. hurdler Queen Harrison after winning an Olympic silver medal, and Abbey D’Agostino, who helped an opponent to her feet after a crash.

“That is exactly what the Olympic spirit and the American spirit should be all about,” Obama said about the sportsmanship of D’Agostino.

The President was particularly enthusiastic about the performance of the female athletes.

“2016 belonged to America’s women Olympians,” Obama said. “Y’all crushed it.”

Watch Obama’s full speech here.

After Obama’s speech, Biles presented him with a surfboard autographed by the Olympians in attendance.

“I’m going to have a lot of time to surf next year,” Obama said.

MORE: Photos of Team USA at the White House

Photos: Team USA at the White House

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Below are some of the best photos of Team USA from inside the White House: