Getty Images

Winter Champions Series debuts on NBC, NBCSN on Saturday

Leave a comment

In a first for the United States Olympic Committee, a single-day, three-sport event dubbed the Team USA Winter Champions Series will take place across the U.S. on Saturday on NBC, NBCSN and NBCSports.com.

Things kick off on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET with the big air snowboarding event at the U.S. Grand Prix from Copper Mountain, Colo.

Big air features riders looking to stomp one clean landing after a cab- or cork-infused, backflipping, frontflipping, rodeo-ing, McTwistingly jaw-dropping jump, and is the newest event to be added to snowboarding for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games.

Sochi Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson is expected to compete in the big air event. Also, look for 2014 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team member Chas Guldemond, as well as Julia Marino, winner of the Big Air at Fenway competition earlier this year.

Following snowboarding on NBC, the best women’s lugers in the world race in the fifth World Cup event of the season on the track used for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics in Park City, Utah. Germany’s Olympic gold and silver medalists , Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Huefner, are first and second, respectively in this season’s World Cup standings.

Both arrive in Utah hoping to pick up their second win of the season. Also in the top 10 World Cup standings, Emily Sweeney and three-time Olympian and Sochi bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, will compete for the U.S.

Headlining the Winter Champions Series is the first of a two-game series between the United States and Canada in women’s hockey. The two teams face off at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan at 4:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on NBCSN or streamed on NBCSports.com.

Both teams could have a big name returning to their rosters after lengthy absences from their national teams.

For the U.S., Amanda Kessel could wear the red, white and blue for the first time since the Sochi Olympic Games. She was part of a 37-player training camp from which the U.S. roster for the two-game series is to be picked.

Kessel’s life in hockey was nearly cut short when she struggled with lingering symptoms from a pre-Games concussion after she got home from Sochi. After benching her career for nearly two years, Kessel reunited with her University of Minnesota team in February, and would help lead the Golden Gophers to their second-consecutive national championship, and this spring she became the highest-paid player in the National Women’s Hockey League after signing a one-year deal with the New York Riveters.

Canada gets its Olympic goalie back. Shannon Szabados comes back after her time in net helped win back-to-back Olympic golds for Canada in 2010 and 2014. Szabados spent the previous two seasons playing in the men’s South Professional Hockey League in the U.S., with the Columbus Cottonmouths. This will be her first time wearing the maple leaf jersey at a game since making 27 saves and holding off an attacking U.S. squad 3-2 in overtime in Sochi for gold.

After hockey on NBCSN at 7:00 p.m. ET catch additional luge coverage of the men’s singles World Cup competition. Watch current World Cup leader, and reigning two-time Olympic champion, Felix Loch of Germany compete in men’s luge against the likes of Team USA’s Tucker West. West arrives in Park City hot off his second trip to the top of the World Cup podium this season after setting a track record in Whistler.

The action on Copper Mountain continues for a second day at the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday in Colorado with snowboarding and freestyle skiing halfpipe finals. Coverage starts at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.

MORE: U.S. Olympians to receive $37,500 per gold medal in PyeongChang

Day Event Network Time (ET)
Saturday Snowboard Big Air — Copper Mountain NBC 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Luge World Cup — Park City NBC 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Women’s Hockey — U.S. vs. Canada NBCSN 4:30-7 p.m.

Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Dawn Staley to coach U.S. women at Tokyo 2020

Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

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

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

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. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

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

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Bode Miller off U.S. ski roster, but has invitation to race