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Erin Hamlin makes fourth Olympics on historic day for U.S. luge

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Erin Hamlin is set to become the second U.S. female luger to compete in four Olympics, which will be the last competition of her career in PyeongChang in February.

The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist (first Olympic medal for a U.S. singles slider) clinched her spot with a fourth-place finish in a World Cup event in Winterberg, Germany, on Sunday.

“Every Olympic year is a little bit more added stress,” Hamlin said. “It’s more of a relief than when I was younger and I made it unexpectedly.”

She will likely be joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Sochi teammate Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney.

Britcher made her first World Cup podium on a European track with a third-place finish in Winterberg on Sunday.

Later Sunday, Sweeney and Britcher went one-two in the sprint race (a non-Olympic event) in Winterberg.

It marked Sweeney’s first World Cup win and the first time ever that the U.S. went one-two in a World Cup singles race in Europe.

The full U.S. Olympic luge team will be named in three weeks.

Hamlin’s place on the team was never in doubt.

She won gold and silver medals in the individual events at worlds last winter, when she said she hoped to make the PyeongChang Olympics the final competition of her decorated career.

“I can now officially, officially say that I’m done, done,” Hamlin said Sunday, repeating for emphasis. “Now that I’m qualified I can say that I’m out [after PyeongChang].”

She was also fourth in the World Cup standings for a second straight season, extending her streak to four straight years as the top American luger.

Hamlin, 31, was 12th and 16th at her first two Olympics in 2006 and 2010, while also winning the 2009 World Championship.

Cammy Myler was the first U.S. woman to compete in four Olympics in luge — in 1988, 1992, 1994 and 1998.

The Olympic favorites are Germans Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Huefner, the last two gold medalists.

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Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

“Can’t live in the past, can’t live in the future, so tonight we were worried about this game,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said, according to the Canadian Press. “We weren’t looking ahead to February.”

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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 due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice 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 the 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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