Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud’s celebrates ‘unreal’ comeback

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – This Alpine skier suffered a torn ACL at the World Championships super-G last February.

This skier underwent surgery, rehabbed and returned to skiing on snow in August.

This skier came back to World Cup racing in Lake Louise, Alberta, and posted improving results in December.

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That’s where Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud’s story splits from that of American Lindsey Vonn.

Jansrud placed fourth in the Olympic super combined Friday, five days after winning a bronze medal in the downhill.

“It’s almost unreal being one year away from an ACL injury, and get to hold a medal in my hand,” he told The Associated Press after the downhill.

Vonn can’t describe that feeling.

To be fair, there are more differences between the two skiers.

Most importantly, Jansrud suffered a comparatively simple left ACL tear when he lost his balance, spun and fell to the snow in Schladming, Austria, on Feb. 6, 2013.

The day before, Vonn tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee and had a lateral tibial plateau fracture.

“Her injury was worse,” said Aksel Lund Svindal, another Norwegian Alpine skier. “He tore his ACL, but it was super clean. Everything else was OK. Lindsey’s, that was worse. That was way worse.”

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The early worry for Vonn was that she would miss the Olympics. Though Vonn admirably worked her way back into top-five form, she suffered a setback racing Dec. 21 and ended her season, needing another knee surgery.

The noted Liverpool supporter Jansrud never lost sight of Sochi, even in the seconds after falling down in Schladming.

“I knew I was out of the World Champs and out of the season,” Jansrud said. “The goal was always being back at the Olympics. I never doubted that at all.”

On Friday, Jansrud led the super combined after the morning downhill portion. He is a better speed event skier and wasn’t expected to keep his lead after the afternoon slalom.

He finished .59 of a second behind the bronze medalist and matched his best career World Cup super combined finish.

His fourth place was impressive, not only as part of his comeback, but also because he again beat fellow Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, the world’s second-best all-around skier.

Norway has a proud Alpine tradition.

Jansrud, 28, may be taking his turn in the spotlight at these Games, a spot passed from legends Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus to the triple 2010 medalist Svindal, who is 31.

Svindal, a disappointing fourth and eighth in Sochi so far, isn’t surprised that Jansrud is performing so well.

“I’ve skied with him since August, and he’s been good,” Svindal said. “Our job as a team is not to question if he can come back and win races. Our job is to believe in that like it’s the most natural thing.”

Jansrud takes momentum into the super-G on Sunday and the giant slalom Wednesday.

His best event in the 2012 and 2013 seasons was the super-G, before he fell in the race in Schladming.

He won 2010 Olympic giant slalom silver, ahead of Svindal and American Ted Ligety, who is seen as the favorite for gold this year.

Ligety, too, is not surprised at Jansrud’s quick recovery.

“ACL surgery in ski racing is a dime a dozen,” said Ligety, who suffered MCL and PCL damage in 2009. “Every single guy basically out there does that and comes back eight months and is normally just as strong. He’s an awesome skier.”

IOC creates 3-person panel to have final say on Russian participation

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 30: IOC President Thomas Bach during the IOC Executive Board Meeting on July 30, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A three-person International Olympic Committee panel will make a final ruling on which individual Russian athletes are allowed to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Games.

The IOC’s ruling executive board, meeting Saturday for the final time before the opening of the games next Friday, said the panel will decide on the entry of Russian athletes whose names have been forwarded to compete by their international sports federations and approved by an independent arbitrator.

“This panel will decide whether to accept or reject that final proposal,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “We want to make it absolutely clear that we are the ones making the final call.”

The move comes amid a doping scandal that has led to the exclusion of more than 100 Russian athletes connected to state-sponsored cheating. More than 250 Russian athletes have been cleared to compete by the federations.

The panel will have to make its ruling before the opening ceremony, just six days away.

“We’re working on a very, very tight timeline,” Adams said. “It has to be finished by Friday at the very latest.”

The panel will consist of three executive board members: Turkey’s Ugur Erdener, chairman of the IOC medical commission; Germany’s Claudia Bokel, head of the athletes’ commission; and Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., a vice president of the modern pentathlon federation.

Adams said the panel will review every athlete cleared by the federations, but would not reopen the cases of those who have been barred. An arbitrator from the Court of Arbitration for Sport will make an initial ruling before the final decision goes to the IOC panel.

“This review board panel will look at every single decision, every single athlete, to make sure the IOC is happy with the decision that’s been taken,” Adams said. “It’s very important that the IOC makes the final decision based on independent advice.”

Saturday’s meeting came less than a week after the IOC board decided not to ban Russia’s entire team from the games because of state-sponsored doping. Rejecting calls by more than a dozen anti-doping agencies for a complete ban on Russia, the IOC left it to the federations to vet which athletes could compete or not.

The Russians banned so far include the 67 track and field athletes barred as a whole by the IAAF, and more than 30 others rejected under new IOC eligibility criteria. Russia’s eight-member weightlifting team was kicked out of the games on Friday for what the international federation called “extremely shocking” doping results that brought the sport into “disrepute.”

The IOC has been roundly criticized by anti-doping bodies, athletes groups and Western media for not imposing a total ban on Russia. Pressure for the full sanction followed a World Anti-Doping Agency report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren that accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping conspiracy involving the country’s summer and winter sports athletes.

IOC President Thomas Bach has defended the decision as one that protects individual athletes who have not been implicated in doping.

Rio’s preparations, meanwhile, remain clouded on several fronts, including budget cuts, water pollution, slow ticket sales, and concerns over crime and the Zika virus. The games come with the suspended president awaiting an impeachment trial and the country gripped by a severe recession.

But Bach and the IOC board remained upbeat following a final progress report by organizing committee chief Carlos Nuzman, including details of the opening ceremony at the Maracana stadium.

“We can’t reveal any secrets but the organizing committee tell us that the ceremony will have Brazilian soul and enchant the world,” Adams said.

Bach gave the organizers a final pep talk ahead of the first games in South America.

“He thinks it’s going to be a great games,” Adams said. “He made that very, very clear. He gave a very rousing thank you to the team and said, ‘Now you must concentrate on delivery, delivery, delivery.”

Also Saturday, the IOC board granted full recognition to the International Ski Mountaineering Federation. It had received provisional recognition in 2014. Saturday’s decision marks another step toward potential future inclusion in the Winter Games.

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Bryan brothers pull out of Olympics, won’t defend gold medal

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04:  (L-R) Silver medalist Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, gold medalist Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan of the United States and bronze medalist Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet of France pose on the podium during the medal ceremony after the Men's Doubles Tennis final match on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on August 4, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Bob and Mike Bryan have pulled out of the Rio Games, less than a week before they were to begin defending their men’s doubles Olympic gold medal.

The Americans made the announcement on their Facebook page, citing their “family’s health,” but not specifically concerns with the Zika virus, which has caused many other tennis players and golfers to withdraw.

“After countless hours of deliberation Mike and I have decided to forego the Rio Olympics. Though we’d love to compete again, as husbands and fathers, our family’s health is now our top priority,” they wrote.

The 38-year-old identical twin brothers are the second-ranked men’s pair in the world. The U.S. Tennis Association is looking into replacements, according to the Associated Press.

The Bryan brothers defeated Michael Llodra and France Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France for gold four years ago in London. At the 2008 Beijing Games, they fell to Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in the semifinals before knocking off Llodra and Arnaud Clement for bronze.

The Bryans were the No. 1 seed in both 2008 and ’12.

After winning gold in London, Bob and Mike went on to collect titles at the next four Grand Slams (2012 U.S. Open, 2013 Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon). The brothers have won a record total of 16 Grand Slam titles together.

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