Bode Miller
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Bode Miller could race in January, U.S. coach says

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VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — If Bode Miller wants to return to ski racing this season as he approaches the age of 40, he’s going to have to show U.S. Ski Team head coach Sasha Rearick that he’s still got the necessary speed.

“There’s always a chance with Bode — always. But at this point right now we’re not expecting a miracle return real quick,” Rearick told The Associated Press on Friday.

Still, Rearick would not rule out a return for Miller this season, saying the six-time Olympic medalist could “possibly” race in January.

Miller has won 33 World Cup races but he has never won the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, which is scheduled for Jan. 21.

While he has not raced since severing his right hamstring tendon in February 2015, Miller might be tempted to return in time for Kitzbuehel. That could enable him to qualify for the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February.

The U.S. team can start only four skiers in each race at the worlds.

“He’s going to have to qualify for world championships,” Rearick said. “He would have to show me he’s ready to play or qualify straight up by criteria.”

The 39-year-old Miller did not show much speed during training at Copper Mountain in Colorado last month — trailing several teammates.

“He was not in the mix in those four-five guys, and we were ahead of the Norwegians there,” Rearick said.

The training in Copper was on a 30-second track of about 800 meters (yards), just a fraction of the distance of a full World Cup downhill or super-G.

“So you can’t go off Copper. You got to show me what’s going on right now,” Rearick said.

Miller has not had any race training since Copper, according to Rearick, but the coach said Miller will come to Europe to train early next month and then be evaluated.

At the 2015 World Championships in Beaver Creek, Colo., Miller was leading the super-G after several intervals despite not having raced all season. Then he crashed.

“That was the perfect end to this career — green light, green light, green light and then crash,” Norwegian great Kjetil Andre Aamodt said, referring to Miller’s unpredictability.

If Miller does return, he’s planning to compete on skis from New York-based brand Bomber, which he helped develop. He has asked a court to void his agreement with previous supplier Head.

Miller ended his nearly 10-year partnership with Head in 2015 and signed an agreement not to wear a different ski brand in World Cup or world championship races for the following two years.

“It’s not been decided as far as we know and we don’t know when the court will decide it,” Head racing director Rainer Salzgeber said. “Anyhow, it’s better when he doesn’t ski. That’s clear. It would be nice for the crowd. But his level of skiing in Copper was not there where we want to see Bode.”

Meanwhile, Salzgeber suggested that Lindsey Vonn — who is still supplied by Head — could return from a broken arm in Cortina d’Ampezzo in late January.

“She will start skiing hopefully beginning of January,” Salzgeber said. “Cortina should be OK.”

VIDEO: Vonn details her ‘most painful’ injury

Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance | TV schedule

Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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MORE: U.S. pairs skater back from life-threatening condition

Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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