Getty Images

Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

Leave a comment

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Marcel Hirscher ties Hermann Maier; Henrik Kristoffersen slams snowballs (video)

Leave a comment

Marcel Hirscher matched a legend. His biggest rival criticized snowballs thrown near him during his slalom run.

The Austrian Hirscher tied countryman Hermann Maier for second on the career men’s Alpine skiing World Cup wins list with his 54th on Tuesday.

Austria became the first nation to notch 500 men’s World Cup wins.

Hirscher, the six-time reigning World Cup overall champion, captured a night slalom in Schladming, Austria.

Norwegian rival Henrik Kristoffersen was second, .39 of a second behind and complaining that snowballs were thrown around him in his second run. Swiss Daniel Yule took third.

Full results are here.

Kristoffersen said three snowballs were thrown in his eyesight in his second run, just before Hirscher took the last run of the night.

“They didn’t hit me, but still it’s quite annoying when you can, like, see something flying in towards you,” Kristoffersen said. “There were probably 50,000 spectators in Schladming and 49,997 are really good people. I love Austria. It’s like a home race for me. Then it’s kind of a little bit sad that three people can ruin it a little bit.

“This had nothing to do with Marcel beating me. He skied better. I wouldn’t have beaten him if nobody would have thrown snowballs.”

Kristoffersen appeared to tell Hirscher in the finish area about the snowballs.

“Really? I’m sorry,” Hirscher told Kristoffersen.

“I feel very sorry for Henrik,” Hirscher said later. “99.9 percent of the spectators are great, but this 0.1 people, it’s a little bit of a shame that we have these spectators.”

Maier made 268 World Cup starts in the 1990s and 2000s. Hirscher reached the same 54 wins in more than 50 fewer starts.

Only Swede Ingemar Stenmark has more men’s World Cup wins than the 28-year-old Hirscher, who has nine victories this season, matching his best for one campaign.

Stenmark won 86 races in the 1970s and 1980s, a mark that Lindsey Vonn is chasing. Vonn is at 79 victories.

Hirscher prevailed in six of the last seven World Cup slaloms, dominating going into his third Winter Games, where he hopes to add the only major prize missing from his trophy case — an Olympic gold medal.

Hirscher was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt. He was fourth, fourth and fifth in three other Olympic races between 2010 and 2014.

The men’s Alpine World Cup continues with a downhill and giant slalom in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday and Sunday, streaming live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app and airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBCSN.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Alpine skiing season broadcast schedule

Norway Olympic curling team unveils this year’s crazy pants

AP
Leave a comment

Just in case the sweeping and the shouting and the chess-like strategy isn’t enough to draw in the fans at the Olympics, the Norwegian curling team is again calling on its secret weapon.

Crazy pants!

For the third straight Winter Games, the men’s team from Norway will be shaking up the staid, 600-year-old sport by wearing brightly colored trousers in competition.

Among the uniforms for PyeongChang unveiled on Tuesday is one that makes them look like they were the losing team in a patriotic paintball outing.

“Curling is kind of similar to golf, very traditional,” Norwegian second Christoffer Svae said in a telephone interview from New York, where the team — well, mostly the pants — was doing a media blitz. “When we started playing in colored pants, it was breaking tradition. It was turning heads, for sure.”

The pants first attracted attention at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where they debuted as a red, white and blue argyle in a field filled with black or other dark trousers.

They — the pants, not the curlers — soon had a Facebook page that now has nearly 500,000 followers and its own email address to field media inquiries.

Back then, the team just ordered and paid for the pants off the rack, but it soon became a sponsorship opportunity.

Loudmouth, which had mostly marketed toward golfers, signed on for the Sochi Games and designed pants just for the team, including a pattern featuring the Norwegian flag and another outfit with high socks and knickers.

The company, which declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the value of the deal, has also backed an American beach volleyball team at the London Olympics, golfer John Daly and Peter “Snakebite” Wright, the No. 2 darts player in the world.

But its biggest splash has come with the Norwegian curlers, and it is backing them again in PyeongChang.

Svae said they will have 12 different outfits — enough to get them through the medal round — and some cash to pay for travel and other expenses.

In a niche, largely self-funded sport like curling, that comes in handy.

“It’s huge,” Svae said. “We get funding from Loudmouth to cover travel expenses, and also the fame we get from the Loudmouth clothes get us other sponsors in Norway, because they want to be associated with the brand we’ve made.”

In addition to Svae, the team includes lead Haavard Vad Petersson, vice-skip Torger Nergaard and skip Thomas Ulsrud.

They will be attending their third straight Olympics, having won a silver medal in Vancouver. (Nergaard won gold as part of a different foursome in 2002).

As the idea man behind the pants phenomenon, Svae said there is more to it than just free publicity.

Curlers understand that the gimmicks might call attention to their sport, but they hope that people who tune in for the pants will take a liking to it.

“I think all curlers are eager to promote the sport,” he said.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Minnesota Vikings celebrate TD by curling

Members of the Norwegian men’s Olympic curling team, from left Christoffer Svae, Thomas Ulsrud, Haavard Peterson and Torger Nergaard pose in their unique uniforms, Tuesday Jan. 23, 2018, in New York. The team is expected to be a fan favorite for a third straight Olympics, thanks to the brightly colored pants that stand out. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

 

Members of the Norwegian men’s Olympic curling team, from left, Christoffer Svae, Thomas Ulsrud, Haavard Peterson and Torger Nergaard pose in their unique uniforms, Tuesday Jan. 23, 2018, in New York. The team is expected to be a fan favorite for a third straight Olympics, thanks to the brightly colored pants that stand out. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)