Joss Christensen
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Joss Christensen eyes farewell at Pyeongchang Olympics after trying times since Sochi gold

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Joss Christensen thought life would work out a little smoother after he became the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle champion in Sochi.

It didn’t quite, and now, more than halfway to the next Winter Games, he’s looking at Pyeongchang as a finale. Christensen may do a contest here or there after the 2018 Olympics, assuming he qualifies to defend his gold medal, but the 2017-18 season should be the end.

“This, for sure, is going to be the last push,” Christensen said at the U.S. Ski Team Gold Medal Gala in New York last week. “I’ll be 30 for Beijing [2022 Winter Olympics], and that just might be a little too old to try and keep up with the younger kids.”

Christensen, then 22, led a U.S. ski slopestyle podium sweep in Sochi and dedicated the surprise victory to his father, who had died of a congenital heart problem six months earlier. Christensen hadn’t qualified for the U.S. Olympic team outright that winter but was the one discretionary selection on the roster of four men’s slopestyle skiers.

Following the gold, Christensen actually lost his ski sponsor and went for a period without a full outerwear sponsor while Oakley restructured, he said, citing fewer people buying ski products altogether.

“It’s a big dog fight out there,” said Christensen, an enterprising spirit who recently helped develop slvsh.com, which combines the basketball game “HORSE” with freestyle skiing. (Unrelated to Christensen’s choice of words, he also needed 30 to 40 injections, including rabies and tetanus shots, after a dog bit him in Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after Sochi.)

Last season, Christensen broke his left hand on the second day of Winter X Games practice in Aspen, Colo (video here). Christensen then bruised his knee and suffered cartilage damage in the second of three finals runs and finished ninth overall, his lowest in four X Games appearances.

Then he separated a shoulder in practice at X Games Oslo in February.

He has a plate in the hand now and also underwent surgery on the long-problemsome left knee in the summer. He hasn’t skied off jumps in seven months but expects to return to competition at the Winter Dew Tour in December.

“It’s been quite a while since I felt confident on a slope course,” said Christensen, who got an Australian Shepherd-labrador mix, Luna, for companionship after all the setbacks.

“I hate the word ‘retire,'” Christensen said. “My plan is to focus on other things in skiing after the next Olympics because I’ve spent 10-plus years doing this now. It’s been super fun. It’s treated me super well. I hope to end on a good note.”

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

Russian skiers stay suspended awaiting Olympic doping cases

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Six Russian cross-country skiers will stay suspended until an IOC panel judges if they were part of a state-backed doping conspiracy at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport says the Olympic commission – chaired by International Olympic Committee member Denis Oswald – should deliver rulings “during the summer period.”

The court says the skiers will stay provisionally suspended until at least Oct. 31. They include Alexander Legkov, the Olympic 50-kilometer freestyle champion, and Maxim Vylegzhanin, a three-time silver medalist at Sochi.

The skiers appealed against interim bans imposed by the International Ski Federation in December after they were implicated by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

CAS hearings this month did not examine detailed doping allegations against Legkov, Vylegzhanin, Alexey Petukhov, Evgenia Shapovalova, Evgeniy Belov and Julia Ivanova.

Tori Bowie upsets Elaine Thompson; Gatlin, Felix struggle at Pre

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Tori Bowie ran a statement 200m at the Pre Classic, clocking the fastest-ever time before the month of June and upsetting Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica.

And she called it a training race.

“My coach made it clear that we were just training for nationals,” Bowie, huffing and puffing after winning in 21.77 seconds, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “No pressure at all.”

Bowie, the Olympic 100m silver medalist and 200m bronze medalist, beat her personal best by .22 of a second.

While Bowie starred, U.S. stalwarts Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin dropped to fifth-place finishes Saturday.

Full Pre Classic results are here.

Athletes are preparing for the U.S. Championships from June 23-25, a qualifying meet for the world championships in London in August.

Felix finished fifth in the 200m behind Bowie, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller, Thompson and Olympic 200m silver medalist Dafne Schippers.

“Not that great, not that great today,” Felix said, according to meet officials. “I feel like my training is going well, it was good to get out here and see where I was at.”

Felix has a bye into the worlds in the 400m as defending world champion but is no longer a medal favorite in the 200m, where she won Olympic silver in 2004 and 2008 and gold in 2012. She clocked 22.33 seconds for fifth Saturday, which was .35 behind third-place Thompson.

Felix missed the 2016 Olympic team in the 200m by .01 while slowed by an ankle injury. But in 2015, a healthy Felix ran faster than 22.33 in all four of her 200m races.

Gatlin finished fifth in the 100m in 9.97 seconds, continuing his slowest season in recent years. At 35 years old, he is no longer looking like the top rival to Usain Bolt, who debuts in his farewell season June 10.

In fact, Gatlin may be in danger of not making the U.S. team in the 100m, which will be the top three finishers at nationals in four weeks.

In contrast, American Ronnie Baker is looking like a medal contender. He won Saturday in 9.86 seconds, which would be the fastest time in the world this year if not for too much tailwind (2.4 meters/second).

Baker, 23, has been a surprise this season, breaking 10 seconds a total of three times including Saturday. He was eliminated in the 2016 Olympic Trials semifinals and had not broken 10 seconds with legal wind before this year.

“My thoughts were, I’ve got every chance to win this just as much as everyone else does,” Baker told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “9.86 is unbelievable.”

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, a 16-year-old, became one of the youngest-ever to break four minutes in the mile. He finished 11th against a field of older runners.

Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah held off Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha to extend his 5000m winning streak to 11 meets dating to 2013. Farah clocked 13:00.7 to Kejelcha’s 13:01.21.

It marked Farah’s last track race in the U.S. as the Oregon-based Brit plans to switch to marathon running after the world championships in August.

Rio gold medalist Caster Semenya barely extended her 800m undefeated streak to 16 finals. The scrutinized South Africa edged Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui by one tenth of a second, clocking 1:59.78.

Olympic champion Omar McLeod took the 110m hurdles in 13.01 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. McLeod beat a field that included Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder (12.80), and 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Christian Taylor, a two-time Olympic champion, recorded the third-best triple jump of all time, 18.11 meters.

Rio bronze medalist Sam Kendricks won the pole vault against a field that included Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and Swedish phenom Armand Duplantis, a Louisiana high school junior. Kendricks cleared 5.86 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer won the 400m hurdles in 53.38 seconds, a personal best and the fastest time in the world this year. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad was fifth in her first 400m hurdles race of the year.

In the shot put, Olympic champion Ryan Crouser unleashed a 22.43-meter throw to beat a field including world champion Joe Kovacs.

Jasmin Stowers won the 100m hurdles in 12.59 seconds, .03 off the fastest time in the world this year. The field lacked suspended Olympic champion Brianna Rollins and world-record holder Keni Harrison, who recently suffered a broken hand.

Russian Maria Lasitskene won the high jump in her first competition outside of Russia since 2015, when she was world champion. Lasitskene competed as a neutral athlete Saturday as Russia is still banned from international competition due to its poor anti-doping record. Her 2.03-meter clearance matched the best in the world since June 2013.

The Diamond League continues in Rome on June 8, with coverage on NBC Sports Gold.

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