Bryan Fletcher, cancer survivor, wins U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials

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Bryan Fletcher, diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, won the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials to lock up his second Winter Games berth on Saturday.

Fletcher, 31, overcame an 84-second deficit after the ski jump to reach the 10km cross-country ski finish line first in Park City, Utah.

Brothers Adam and Ben Loomis were second and third, followed by Fletcher’s younger brother, Taylor, according to reports from Park City.

As a boy, Bryan Fletcher underwent chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than four years, surviving a stroke in the process, before going into remission at age 8.

He entered kindergarten with a bald head but made light of his condition by painting it green and wearing a matching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outfit.

Fletcher, who took up skiing during chemo, was a ski jumping forerunner at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He just missed the 2010 Olympic team due to an ankle injury from falling down stairs. Taylor took the last spot instead.

Fletcher made his Olympic debut in Sochi, finishing 22nd and 26th in two individual events and sixth in the team event.

Ben Loomis, a 19-year-old and 2016 Youth Olympic silver medalist, led Saturday’s trials after the ski jump portion. Bryan and Taylor Fletcher were fifth and sixth going into the 10km.

This Olympic Nordic combined team will not have any of the men who won the U.S.’ four medals in the sport, all in 2010.

Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick, who competed in the last five Olympics, retired after Sochi.

Without them, U.S. skiers haven’t performed well enough internationally yet to earn an Olympic berth in the Nordic combined team event.

The U.S. currently has two spots available in the individual events in PyeongChang but can get up to five spots (and a team event berth) by the qualifying deadline in three weeks.

The team event has been in the Olympics since 1988, with the U.S. taking part each time.

The U.S. Olympic ski jumping trials are Sunday, airing on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 1 p.m. ET.

The male and female winners will clinch Olympic berths, with the rest of the team announced in January.

The favorites include Sochi Olympian Sarah Hendrickson and Nita Englund, plus Will Rhoads and Kevin Bickner, a pair leading a new generation of U.S. male jumpers.

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MORE: Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

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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