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U.S. Olympic women’s curling team names final member

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Cory Christensen rounds out the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team.

Christensen, 22, was named the alternate on Tuesday on the five-woman team skipped by Nina Roth. She is the 13th U.S. athlete across all sports to qualify for the PyeongChang Winter Games (full list here).

Unlike other sports, alternates on Olympic curling teams can be subbed in before any game for any reason. An alternate can replace a healthy team member for one game, then go back to the bench for the next, like a substitute.

The U.S. Olympic men’s alternate was used in 2010 and 2014. The last U.S. women’s alternate to see action was in 2006.

Every athlete on Roth’s team is an Olympic rookie, including vice skip Tabitha Peterson, second Aileen Geving and lead Becca Hamilton.

They beat a team skipped by Jamie Sinclair in the U.S. Olympic Trials finals two weeks ago in Omaha despite a gaffe by Roth.

Christensen skipped the third team at trials, going 1-5 and being eliminated in round-robin play. She was also the alternate on Roth’s team that finished fifth at the world championships in March.

Roth’s team is an outside Olympic medal threat and certainly expected to improve on the U.S.’ 5-22 record over the last three Olympics.

They lost to Sinclair at last season’s nationals but earned the worlds berth over Sinclair via better season-long results.

Roth, Peterson, Hamilton and Christensen could also make the Olympic team in mixed doubles, a new event debuting in PyeongChang.

The U.S. Olympic Trials are in two weeks in Blaine, Minn., with only the winning duo going to the Olympics in that event.

The U.S. has earned one Olympic curling medal, a 2006 men’s bronze. The best U.S. women’s finish was fourth in 2002. Curling was part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and every Olympics since 1998.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Great Britain are the world powers in curling.

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VIDEO: Shuster rallies for 4th Olympic curling berth

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).

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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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