U.S. earns historic cross-country skiing world medals

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U.S. cross-country skiing had its best-ever individual race at an Olympics or world championships, with Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall taking silver and bronze medals in the worlds sprint on Thursday.

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, the Olympic champion and World Cup sprint leader, easily won the final in 3:02.34 under the lights in Lahti, Finland.

Diggins crossed 1.66 seconds later, while Randall held off Swede Hanna Falk by .15 for bronze. The U.S. had half of the skiers in the final, with Sophie Caldwell finishing sixth.

The U.S. has never earned an individual Olympic or world title in cross-country skiing, but Thursday’s finish was unprecedented for the nation.

Diggins and Randall previously teamed to win the first U.S. gold at worlds, in the team sprint in 2013. Diggins and Randall also own individual world silver medals from separate races. Diggins and Caitlin Gregg earned silver and bronze in the 10km freestyle in 2015, but the U.S.’ next-best finisher was 10th.

“Hopefully really inspiring, because we’re not a country that has historically been known for [cross-country] skiing,” Diggins said. “But then we’ve created this women’s team together and worked so hard together, and I think that teamwork really shows. We can be stronger together than we can as individuals.”

Diggins has made three World Cup podiums this season, with two wins. Randall, coming back from April childbirth, had a top World Cup finish this season of fifth but previously won 13 individual World Cup races.

“It was a slow start to the season, and it took a lot of patience,” said Randall, who turned 34 years old on New Year’s Eve. “But the shape is building, and I hoped to find the best shape here. It worked.”

Randall’s pre-race routine Thursday included feeding breakfast to son Breck, cleaning his bib and putting him down for a nap before bringing him to the venue.

“It’s very encouraging to know that it’s only been 10 months, and I’ve been able to come back to top form,” Randall said. “I was able to train well through my pregnancy and come back to training pretty soon after the birth.”

The U.S. owns one Olympic cross-country medal, Bill Koch‘s 30km silver at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games. A U.S. woman has never placed higher than sixth in any Olympic cross-country skiing event.

Worlds continue Saturday with the men’s and women’s skiathlons on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 5 a.m. ET.

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week after suffering ankle and knee injuries this fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since a Nov. 9 practice fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Green Bay Packers pull another Olympic sport TD celebration

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We’re halfway to a decathlon of Olympic sport touchdown celebrations over the last two seasons.

After the hurdles, the long jump, the bobsled and the relay came the race walk on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, once part of a three-man bobsled team, led three other teammates in a race walk after scoring in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. (Adams later left the game with a concussion.)

Adams won the race walk, which was much, much shorter than the standard Olympic distances of 20km and 50km, over teammates Jordy NelsonRandall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.

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