First-time Olympians lead Canada curling teams for Pyeongchang

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The next challenge for Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe is to extend Canadian Olympic curling dominance by succeeding gold-medal teams that they helped dethrone at the Olympic Trials.

Team Homan and Team Koe emerged from one of the most difficult Olympic selection processes for any sport in any nation, winning the Roar of the Rings in Ottawa on Sunday.

Homan, whose team last season became the first to go undefeated at a world championship, beat Chelsea Carey‘s team 6-5 in the women’s final. Carey had gone unbeaten in round-robin play, including an 8-4 win over Homan in the opener.

But Homan won her last nine games, including back-to-back victories over Sochi Olympic champion Jennifer Jones‘ team, eliminating Jones and Co. in Saturday’s semifinal.

Homan, 28 and ranked No. 3 in the world, can become the youngest female skip to win an Olympic title since women’s curling debut at the Winter Games in 1998.

Canada has earned a medal in every Olympic women’s tournament, and Homan is now the youngest Olympic female skip in history.

Koe will make his Olympic debut at age 43 after beating Mike McEwen‘s team 7-6 in Sunday night’s final.

Koe’s team won their first seven games in round-robin play, including beating Sochi gold medalist Brad Jacobs, to earn a bye into the final.

Koe lost to 2017 World champion Brad Gushue in the round-robin finale, but McEwen then knocked out Gushue in the semifinal.

Koe is seasoned, having won the 2010 and 2016 World titles, and is ranked fifth in the world (he outlasted three teams at trials that are ranked ahead of him). He was fourth and sixth at the previous two Olympic Trials.

Two members of Koe’s team — lead Ben Hebert and third Marc Kennedy — will try to become the first men to win two Olympic curling gold medals. Hebert and Kennedy took the 2010 Olympic title with Kevin Martin.

Canada’s Olympic curling team is not yet set.

The mixed doubles trials are Jan. 2-7 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. The curlers who won Sunday cannot compete in the mixed doubles trials.

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Lindsey Vonn wins 79th World Cup race as oldest downhill victor (video)

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Lindsey Vonn became the oldest woman to win a World Cup downhill with three weeks until the Olympics, notching her 79th career victory in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Saturday.

In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest female Alpine medalist in Olympic history.

Vonn prevailed by .92 of a second over Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather on Saturday, moving seven shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record of 86 World Cup victories.

“My focus right now is just so much on Olympics that I haven’t really thought about [the record] that much this season,” Vonn said. “After the Olympics, that will be my No. 1 priority again, and I’ll try to just rack up as many wins before I retire as possible.”

American Jackie Wiles was third to become the fifth U.S. female Alpine skier to qualify for PyeongChang, joining Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, among others. (full U.S. Olympic roster here)

Shiffrin was seventh in Saturday’s race in her least comfortable discipline.

Full results are here.

Vonn, 33, broke Austrian Elisabeth Goergl‘s record as the oldest woman to win a World Cup downhill. Goergl is still the oldest winner for any World Cup race, taking a super-G in 2014 at nearly 34 years old.

Vonn, already an Olympic medal favorite in downhill and super-G, won her first downhill since Jan. 21, 2017.

She had raced eight downhills in between with four podium finishes, including taking second to Italian Sofia Goggia on Friday in Cortina. Goggia failed to finish Saturday.

The World Cup continues with a super-G in Cortina on Sunday (5:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

“Mentally, I feel like it’s the first podium I ever got,” Vonn said. “Back in 2004, I feel the same. I have the same motivation, the same drive, the same excitement. I love going fast. That’s never changed. The only thing that’s changed is my body is not as good as it once was, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still win.

“I’ll keep going until my poor little knee gives out.”

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IOC approves unified Korea Olympic team, 22 North Korean athletes

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North and South Korean athletes will compete on the same team at the Olympics for the first time, while the IOC approved 22 North Koreans to compete overall in PyeongChang.

The IOC on Saturday approved the Koreas’ agreement to field a unified women’s hockey team and to march together in the Opening Ceremony behind the Korean Unification flag.

Twelve North Koreans have been added to the South Korean women’s hockey team. The other North Korean athletes will compete in figure skating, Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and short track speed skating.

Full details are here.

“Today marks a milestone on a long journey,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “Since 2014, the IOC has addressed the special situation of having the Olympic Winter Games 2018 on the Korean Peninsula. Until today, we met separately with the parties on a bilateral basis to address an often fast-changing political situation in a comprehensive way. Today is therefore a great day because the Olympic Spirit has brought all sides together. This was not an easy journey.”

At the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9, one North Korean and one South Korean will carry the flag in the Parade of Nations. The Koreas previously marched together at the Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

The hockey team will compete as “Korea,” under the unification flag and using the song “Arirang” as its anthem. North Koreans will compete under their own flag in all other sports.

North Korea did not qualify any spots for the Olympics, but the IOC had power to offer special invitations.

“Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago,” Bach said. “The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula.”

The 22 North Korean athletes mark more North Koreans at a Winter Olympics than the last six Winter Games combined.

North Korea had zero athletes in 2014 and two in 2010.

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