Jessica Springsteen
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Jessica Springsteen, Georgina Bloomberg face tough road to making Olympics

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Making the U.S. Olympic equestrian team is much about timing, and neither Jessica Springsteen nor Georgina Bloomberg has been fortunate in that respect in recent months.

The show jumpers are entered in this week’s Longines Masters of Los Angeles among several Olympic hopefuls, including three of the four members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic show jumping team.

But neither Springsteen nor Bloomberg is riding her best horse in L.A. Springsteen’s Vindicat W and Bloomberg’s Juvina have been hampered by leg tendon problems for months and may not be able to compete again until next year, if at all before the Rio Games.

So Springsteen, daughter of rocker Bruce Springsteen, and Bloomberg, daughter of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, add that adversity on top of trying to beat out more experienced Americans by next summer to make a four-rider Olympic team in an event where the U.S. quartet won gold in 2004 and 2008.

“So much depends on having the right horse and having everything working in your favor at the right time, your horse being peaked and your horse being sound,” said Melanie Smith-Taylor, a 1984 U.S. Olympic show jumping team champion who has covered the last seven Olympics for NBC.

Springsteen, 23, in particular looked like a hopeful for Rio 2016 even before the London 2012 Olympics, when she was a teenager showing promise in a sport where athletes in their 40s, 50s and even 60s have won medals. She’s been competing since she was a kindergartener.

She was the 14th-ranked rider in the final standings when the four-rider 2012 Olympic team was announced. Springsteen’s farm purchased Vindicat W, which a Brit piloted to Olympic gold in London, one month after the Games. By April 2014, she and Vindicat W were ranked No. 2 on the U.S. Equestrian rider/horse list.

The complete 2016 U.S. Olympic show jumping team selection procedures haven’t been published yet, but it’s anticipated that the team of four riders and horses will be chosen from a list of at least 10 rider/horse combinations finalized in April.

That list of at least 10 will be made up primarily of riders and horses whose competition results rank them high on lists such as the one Springsteen and Vindicat W were No. 2 on in April 2014.

With Vindicat W out, Springsteen’s ranked No. 51 and No. 58 on that list’s most recent update last Friday, though she won the most recent rider of the week honor following a win on another horse in a Vienna, Austria, event earlier this month.

This came after Springsteen became a Gucci model and was named by one British outlet as one of the world’s 50 most marketable athletes over the next three years.

Springsteen’s confidence was higher last spring, when she had Vindicat W and was among 10 finalists for the U.S. team for the World Equestrian Games, the sport’s prestigious, once-every-four-years event. Springsteen did not make that team, and the U.S. won bronze without her in Normandy, France.

“It really felt like the Olympics was the next goal,” Springsteen said in a recent phone interview, before the Vienna victory. “It’s definitely a disappointment to not be in contention for that right now, to not have a horse I can compete with. Right now, I’m looking for a new horse.”

Bloomberg, 32, came back from December 2013 childbirth to win the Central Park Grand Prix in September 2014 riding her top horse, Juvina.

She returned to headline the event last weekend but without Juvina.

“There is, in my opinion, no horse that’s more talented than she is in the world. It’s always the best one that’s injured,” Bloomberg joked in Central Park before last week’s event. “That’s the way it works. [Juvina] would be sort of my first choice for Rio, and it does not look like she will be back for next year. Obviously I’m hoping, but I have a couple of other horses that are stepping up and hopefully will surprise me. It’s still something I will work my ass off to try to accomplish.”

Bloomberg was the fourth-ranked U.S. rider in March, when Juvina first suffered the tendon injury.

She was part of the U.S. team at the Pan American Games in July in Toronto, where she was the third-best American out of four in the individual jumping competition.

Now, she is ranked eighth and ninth on two other U.S. Equestrian rankings lists where Springsteen is 23rd and 21st, respectively. They’re looking up at the likes of Olympic team event champions McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, who will be 40 and 52 years old, respectively, come Rio 2016.

“It’s hard in our sport because obviously the rider’s only 50 percent,” said Bloomberg, who in her career has suffered a concussion from a fall and broken her back, collarbone, an ankle and wrist. “You’ll see a lot of talented riders that work very hard and are very deserving but will never make the Olympic Games just because they don’t have the right horse at the right time.”

MORE EQUESTRIAN: Rio record watch: First athlete to win medals at 7 Olympics?

Lindsey Vonn gets bad luck, Mikaela Shiffrin misses gate in super-G

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Neither Lindsey Vonn nor Mikaela Shiffrin made the podium, but Swiss Lara Gut notched her first victory Sunday since a major knee injury.

Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champion who tore an ACL in February, topped a World Cup super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, by .14 over Italian Johanna Schnarf.

Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer was third. Full results are here.

Vonn dropped to sixth, .37 behind, dropped a couple of expletives in the finish corral and posted on social media afterward that she caught her strongest wind gust in more than 400 career starts.

“I’m not mad; I’m just a little bit frustrated,” Vonn said. “Sometimes this happens in ski racing where the races aren’t really fair. The wind comes. The light comes. The clouds come. But I tried my best. I’m happy with my skiing. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t very lucky today. Hopefully I can get some of this luck and take it with me to February [and the Olympics] and get some better conditions.”

Vonn placed second and first in downhills in Cortina on Friday and Saturday, confirming she’s a favorite to become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist next month.

Shiffrin was off her line early in Sunday’s run and eventually missed a gate, screaming out of frustration.

She is still cutting her teeth in the speed events of downhill and super-G and was third and seventh in the previous two races.

“The problem was with my [pre-race course] inspection, and I’m not exactly sure what we can do for me to be better prepared for super-Gs,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “One of my biggest issues right now is still switching from the timing of downhill turns to super-G turns.”

Laurenne Ross became the sixth U.S. female Alpine skier to qualify for the Olympic team thanks to a previous top-10. Ross, the second-best U.S. speed racer behind Vonn last season, came back from blowing out her right knee in a March 27 crash.

The World Cup moves to Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday for a giant slalom, where Shiffrin will be favored (full Alpine season broadcast schedule here).

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2018 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team General Manager Jim Johannson dies at 53

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Jim Johannson, the general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, has died on the eve of the Pyeongchang Games. He was 53.

Johannson passed away in his sleep Sunday morning, according to USA Hockey. Executive director Pat Kelleher said the organization is “beyond shocked and profoundly saddened” by the loss of the Rochester, Minnesota native.

“As accomplished as Jim was in hockey, he was the absolute best, most humble, kind and caring person you could ever hope to meet,” Kelleher said in a release. “His impact on our sport and more importantly the people and players in our sport have been immeasurable. Our condolences go out to his entire family, but especially to his loving wife Abby and their young daughter Ellie.”

Johannson’s role in selecting this year’s Olympic team was his most high-profile job in a career spent in hockey. He also played for the U.S. in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

The United States faces Slovenia in its Pyeongchang opener on Feb. 14.

“There are few like Jimmy,” said Ron DeGregorio, chairman of the board of USA Hockey. “Our sport was so lucky to have him. He was as good of a person you’ll meet and he played such a significant role in helping move our sport forward. Today is a tough day for everyone.”

Johannson began working for USA Hockey in 2000 after spending five years as the general manager of the Twin Cities Vulcans in the United States Hockey League. He was promoted to assistant executive director of hockey operations in 2007, overseeing the organization’s efforts in fielding teams for international competition.

He played college hockey at Wisconsin and helped the Badgers win the NCAA championship as a freshman. He was selected by Hartford in the seventh round of the 1982 draft, but never played in the NHL.

“When we heard of JJ’s passing, we are reminded of what an enjoyable person he was to be around, and also what he meant to USA Hockey and hockey worldwide,” Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who have a strong connection to USA Hockey, said in a release.

“We should all strive to do our jobs and treat people as JJ did. Jim Johannson, you have moved on, but you will not be forgotten. We will miss you.”

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