Maelle Ricker
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Maelle Ricker, first Canadian woman to win home gold, retires from snowboard cross

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Maelle Ricker, who in 2010 became the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold on home soil, retired from snowboard cross at age 36, according to Canadian media.

Ricker underwent knee surgery in February and couldn’t come back, according to CBC.

“I’ve got a lot of mixed emotions – emotions that change by the minute,” Ricker said, according to the Canadian Press. “I really had the vision to keep going and keep racing. I’ve come back from injury many times before and this was going to be another routine stop.

“When I got back on snow … a switch flipped inside and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get back in the starting gate with the ability I need to race and to really commit 100 percent and be on the podium. I promised myself that if I couldn’t get back to that spot I wouldn’t keep going.”

Ricker won Canada’s second gold medal of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, two days after moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau snapped the nation’s home-gold drought. Canada won zero golds at the Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988 Olympics.

At Torino 2006, Ricker competed in snowboard cross’ Olympic debut, was fastest in qualifying but crashed in the final and had to be taken to a hospital. That final is most remembered for American Lindsey Jacobellis giving up gold by falling on a trick move near the finish. Swiss Tanja Frieden won.

Ricker crashed in the Sochi Olympic quarterfinals.

She also competed at the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics, placing fifth in halfpipe’s Olympic debut as a 19-year-old.

Ricker is the only snowboarder to win titles at the Olympics, World Championships and Winter X Games. She did so during an era dominated by Jacobellis, who has won 13 gold medals in 18 snowboard cross appearances over those three competitions, but zero Olympic titles.

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Julia Mancuso retires, joins NBC Olympics for PyeongChang

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Julia Mancuso, the most decorated female U.S. Olympic skier with four medals, ended her bid for a record fifth Olympics and is retiring after a victory lap in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Friday.

Mancuso, 33, could not fully come back from right hip surgery that kept her out the previous two full seasons.

She raced three times this season without cracking the top 40.

Mancuso would have had one last chance to prove she deserved a PyeongChang Olympic place at a World Cup stop in Cortina this weekend.

Instead, she’s calling it a career now.

She will still go to PyeongChang, as a reporter for NBC Olympics and for “The Olympic Zone,” the nightly 30-minute show that airs on NBC affiliates.

“It has been an epic battle with my hip injury, and the past three years I have put everything into returning to competition at the highest level and the goal to reach my fifth Olympic Games,” Mancuso said in a U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release. “There have been really promising days during this challenging process, and I have kept my spirits up despite many who questioned or doubted me. Sadly, I haven’t found the progression to compete with the best in the world again, but I’m proud to have fought until the very end. It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to ski racing, but I do so with a full heart.”

Mancuso made her name as a big-event racer.

She reached 36 podiums in 398 World Cup starts (nine percent) but earned nine medals in 40 Olympic and world championships starts (23 percent).

None bigger than the 2006 Olympic giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy.

Mancuso battled driving snow and poor visibility to take gold, having never before won a World Cup or world championships race (but with five world junior titles and two 2005 World bronze medals). She stayed up late the previous night watching women’s figure skating on TV while eating Pop Tarts.

At the medal ceremony, the free spirit donned a plastic tiara, a gift presented by coaches at a team dinner. She also wore the tiara in place of a helmet for a slalom run in the combined event.

“Oh my God, I just won the Olympics,” Mancuso told teammate Stacey Cook immediately after winning, reportedly adding to media an hour later as Olympic champion, “You can’t imagine how weird it is to say that out loud.”

Mancuso had some lean seasons on the World Cup in the next two Olympic cycles, yet surprised for downhill and super combined silver medals in 2010 and another super combined bronze in 2014.

Mancuso, along with Lindsey VonnBode Miller and Ted Ligety, was part of a golden generation of U.S. Alpine skiing. At least one of the four won a medal at every Olympics and world championships since 2002.

Now Miller and Mancuso have retired, and Vonn and Ligety are likely going to their last Olympics in PyeongChang.

Mancuso bid this year to join cross-country skier Kikkan Randall and (very likely) snowboarder Kelly Clark as the first U.S. woman to compete in five Winter Olympics.

Mancuso also would have been the second-oldest U.S. Olympic Alpine skier ever after Miller, the only American skier with more Olympic medals than Mancuso’s four.

Hip problems resulting from a birth condition kept that from happening.

Mancuso has hip displaysia, a misalignment of bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal.

When Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor said she needed to choose between ski racing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17 in 2002) or living a healthy life.

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

Mancuso underwent surgery after that 2006 Olympic title. 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. She hoped to return to racing last season but was limited to being a forerunner.

Again, this season, she delayed her comeback and never was able to race at the level she wanted.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said in April. “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.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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South Korea coach banned for allegedly beating Olympic champ

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s skating authorities suspended a national team coach for allegedly beating Olympic short track speed skating champion Shim Suk-hee.

The Korea Skating Union on Friday said Shim left a national team training center for two days this week after she was allegedly assaulted by one of her four male coaches. She returned to the center on Thursday.

Skating authorities confirmed an investigation is under way, but did not identify the coach.

Shim, then 17, won gold (3000m relay), silver (1500m) and bronze (1000m) at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

She is one of South Korea’s biggest stars going into the PyeongChang Olympics.

Shim is the reigning world champion in the individual 3000m, which is not an Olympic event, and the overall world bronze medalist.

No details of the incident have been released, and It wasn’t immediately known if the 20-year-old was injured.

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