Lindsey Jacobellis essentially wraps up Olympic berth; Sochi champ hurt

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Lindsey Jacobellis all but clinched her fourth Olympic berth with a record-extending 28th career World Cup snowboard cross win in France on Wednesday.

Jacobellis, a 2006 Olympic silver medalist, five-time world champion and 10-time X Games champion, now has second- and first-place finishes from the first two of five U.S. Olympic qualifying events.

She will officially clinch a place on the Pyeongchang team after the next World Cup in Austria ends Saturday, so long as two other U.S. women don’t finish one-two in that event.

Pencil her in. Only twice in the last 10 years has another U.S. woman made a World Cup podium.

Jacobellis has won either a World Cup, a world title or the X Games in 15 of the last 16 seasons (the outlier was when she missed the 2012-13 season due to a torn ACL and meniscus).

Jacobellis now has eight more World Cup snowboard cross wins than the next rider on the all-time list — France’s Pierre Vaultier. She also has a World Cup halfpipe victory from 2004.

Of course, she is missing Olympic gold.

The 32-year-old infamously lost gold on a celebratory board grab on the penultimate jump at the 2006 Torino Winter Games, settling for silver. She then washed out in the semifinals in both 2010 and 2014.

Pyeongchang will bring another round of expectations, and one more opportunity to claim that elusive gold. It may be her last chance, but Jacobellis refused to put a timeline on the rest of her career after winning her fifth world title on March 12.

“Still just taking one week at a time, one month at a time, just living the dream,” she said then. “I don’t like to look too far in the future because you’re missing what’s going on right now. I’ve made that mistake before in the past, where you’re too worried about what’s coming, and you’re not seeing what’s right in front of you.”

Also Wednesday, two-time U.S. Olympian Faye Gulini finished fourth, her best World Cup result ever, matching her Sochi Olympic finish. Gulini is a strong bet to join Jacobellis on the Olympic team.

Meanwhile, Sochi gold medalist and 2017 World Cup champion Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic injured her shoulder in training in France and did not start.

The injury is not believed to be serious enough to impact her Olympic preparations, according to the Czech snowboard federation.

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Lindsey Jacobellis
20th — 2001 X Games
21st — 2002 X Games
Gold — 2003 X Games
Gold — 2004 X Games
Gold — 2005 Worlds
Gold — 2005 X Games
*** Skipped 2006 X Games
Silver — 2006 Olympics
Silver — 2007 X Games
Gold — 2007 Worlds
Gold — 2008 X Games
Gold — 2009 X Games
*** Skipped 2009 Worlds
Gold — 2010 X Games
Fifth — 2010 Olympics
Gold — 2011 Worlds
Gold — 2011 X Games
*** Tore ACL/meniscus in 2012 X Games training run
Gold — 2014 X Games
Seventh — 2014 Olympics
Gold — 2015 Worlds
Gold — 2015 X Games
Gold — 2016 X Games
Gold — 2017 Worlds

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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VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics

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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MORE: South Korea Olympic hockey rosters have North American flavor