Bobsled crashes, makes final 8 turns upside down (video)

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Belgian bobsledders An Vannieuwehnhuyse and Sophie Vercruyssen spent nearly 30 seconds sliding upside down, making the final eight turns on the track, after crashing in a World Cup race in Whistler, B.C., on Friday night.

They finally slowed to a stop after crossing the finish line nine seconds behind the fastest sleds in the first of two runs.

The athletes quickly emerged from the sled and gingerly walked off the track on their own power. They did not qualify for a second run later that night.

The Whistler track has been known for its difficulty since it opened one year before hosting the 2010 Olympics.

In the first four-man training session in 2009, four of eight sleds crashed on curve 13, which led the late Steven Holcomb to nickname it “Curve 50/50.”

VIDEO: Bobsledder ejected in World Cup crash

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The Story of Holcy's 50/50 It was a nasty afternoon of sliding in January 2009, just over a year until the 2010 #Olympics. Tour had been on the track in #Whistler for a few days when eight sleds decided to move from 2-man to 4-man. It was the first day international 4-man sleds would go off the top of the track. Four sleds made it through curve 13 and four sleds did not… they met the entrance of curve 14 on their heads, definitely worse for wear. That night Steve Holcomb, @justinbolsen, @ctomasevicz & I headed down to the garage to prep our backup sled for our first 4-man training the next day. We didn’t dare take the Night Train down the track, with a 50% chance of making it through. So we started to joke as we prepped our lightening bolt sled, that there was a fifty percent chance people were making it down on all four runners. That quickly turned into Holcy saying there was a fifty/fifty chance and we joked about it the rest of sled prep – which was trying to fit in the sled properly (since it wasn’t our normal sled), getting runners on, and everything else ready. We headed up to the rooms, still laughing about it and ordered delivery sushi. After we were done eating, Justin, Holcy, Emily Azevedo & I decided we were going to rip open the bag and make a sign for Holcy to duct tape to the roof on his track walk the next morning; if we were going to go down the track, we might as well have some fun with it, we thought! Within days, when the track announcer called the Germans “sliding 50/50”, the four of us couldn’t stop giggling! From then on, we always found it amazing that the name of the curve stuck and even on the @nbcolympics broadcast, curve 13 was forever enshrined as Curve 50/50. Today I learned that corner was renamed. For now and forever it'll be called “Holcy’s 50/50” – a loving memory of our fallen teammate, who never did crash our 4-man in that corner. A little more than a year after ripping that sushi bag, Holcy, Olsen, Curt, and I crossed the line to make history. I wish I could be in Whistler this weekend to hear the call of sliding "Holcy's 50/50"… Miss you my friend and brother. @ibsfsliding @teamusa @martinhaven @elanameyerstaylor

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New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

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Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

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Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

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When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

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