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World No. 2 biathlete to miss Olympics

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Gabriela Koukalova, the Czech Republic’s Sportsperson of the Year and second-ranked biathlete in the world last season, will miss the PyeongChang Olympics due to a calf injury, according to the Czech Biathlon Union.

Koukalova, 28, has not competed this season after placing second in last season’s World Cup standings behind German Laura Dahlmeier.

Koukalova won an individual medal of every color at last season’s worlds. She also took the 2015-16 World Cup season title.

She competed at two previous Olympics as Gabriela Soukalova — before her marriage — and won two silvers in Sochi.

This season’s World Cup leader is Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia.

The top American, world silver medalist Susan Dunklee, has a best finish this season of sixth.

Biathlon is the only Winter Olympic sport where the U.S. has never earned a medal.

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MORE: Eric Heiden’s niece qualifies for U.S. Olympic biathlon team

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

Jana Novotna, Wimbledon champ and Olympic medalist, dies at 49

AP
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PRAGUE (AP) — Jana Novotna, who won the hearts of the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, has died at the age of 49.

The WTA announced Novotna’s death on Monday, saying she died Sunday in her native Czech Republic following a long battle with cancer.

Novotna died “peacefully, surrounded by her family,” the women’s tennis body said.

Her family confirmed her death to the Czech Republic’s CTK news agency. No details were given.

Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who was also born in what was then Czechoslovakia, tweeted: “The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna. I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”

Novotna won her only Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, eventually triumphing after two losses in the final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1993 and 1997.

She added three Olympic tennis medals — singles bronze at Altanta 1996 (knocking out top seed Monica Seles) and doubles silver in 1988 and 1996 with Helena Sukova.

She also lost in the 1991 Australian Open final.

While she finally captured the Grand Slam singles title she longed for in 1998, she won over the Wimbledon crowd five years earlier after wasting a big lead in the decisive set in a tough three-set loss to Steffi Graf.

Unable to hide her disappointment, Novotna cried on the shoulder of Britain’s Duchess of Kent at the prize giving ceremony and was gently comforted by the royal, who told her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”

Novotna ultimately had her moment five years later when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets to win Wimbledon. At the time, she was the oldest first-time winner of a Grand Slam singles title at age 29.

There wear tears again from Novotna, this time of joy, and the Duchess of Kent was present again to congratulate her.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory,” Wimbledon organizers the All England Club said in tribute to Novotna. “The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Fellow Czech and four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, who coached Novotna for her Wimbledon win, said: “It’s hard to find words. Jana was a great girl and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon after all. It’s so sad when someone so young dies.”

During a 14-year professional career, Novotna won 24 singles titles and reached a career-high No. 2 in the singles rankings in 1997. She was a prolific and top-ranked doubles player, collecting 16 slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

She also won the Fed Cup with her country in 1988. Novotna was inducted into tennis’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even after retiring in 1999, Novotna was desperate to stay involved in tennis and became a commentator and coach.

“I’m dependent on tennis,” she said in an interview two years ago. “A day without it would be terrible.”

Members of the current Czech Fed Cup team said Novotna “supported us in the stands any time she could be there. We’ll miss her.”

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.”