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Lillehammer plans Winter Olympic bid

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Lillehammer, the charming Norwegian village that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics, plans a bid for either the 2026 or 2030 Winter Games involving several Norwegian cities, according to Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang.

The report quotes Olympic downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal and former IOC member Gerhard Heiberg of Norway.

Lillehammer, which also hosted the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics, published a feasibility report about a potential Winter Olympic bid last year.

It could share an Olympic bid with events also being held in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim.

The IOC said last month that four cities have entered the initial dialogue phase for potential 2026 Olympic bids: Calgary, Stockholm, Sion, Switzerland and Sapporo, Japan.

Cities have until the end of March to enter the dialogue phase, after which no new cities will be accepted for 2026 bids. But the previously named cities’ bids could hinge on public votes, which led to the demise of recent Summer and Winter Games bids.

IOC president Thomas Bach has said he hopes the Winter Olympics can return to a more traditional location after PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022, which USOC chairman Larry Probst called “code for Europe or North America.”

If Norway holds its bid for 2030, and another European city is chosen the 2026 Olympic host, it could make a Lillehammer 2030 bid more difficult to succeed.

The U.S. prefers to bid for the 2030 Olympics — with one of Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno-Tahoe — but would consider bidding earlier if the 2026 and 2030 Olympics will be awarded together like the 2024 and 2028 Games were to Paris and Los Angeles last year.

The 2026 Olympic host city is expected to be chosen via International Olympic Committee members vote in 2019.

Oslo withdrew its bid for the 2022 Olympics in 2014, after Norway’s government voted not to financially back it.

No Norwegian bid has been a finalist for an Olympic host city vote since Lillehammer hosted the 1994 Winter Games.

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Petter Northug left off Norway Olympic cross-country skiing team

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Petter Northug, the most decorated Norwegian cross-country skier of the last 20 years, was left off the country’s Olympic team.

Northug, a braggadocious 32-year-old with 13 world titles and six Olympic medals, struggled each of the past two seasons.

He barely competed this season, placing 32nd in his lone World Cup start and missing recent races, reportedly due to health issues.

Northug may be the most known athlete in Norway, which leads the all-time Winter Olympic medal standings.

Norway also left off the Olympic team the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, 43-year-old biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, a 13-time Olympic medalist who struggled this season.

Northug had his own reality show, “Circus Northug,” which ran for two seasons. He competed in the World Series of Poker. He once made King Harald V wait 15 minutes to congratulate him on a victory so that he could cool down.

Competitors have called him “Storkjeften fra Mosvik,” or the Big Mouth from Mosvik (his Norwegian birthplace). Northug has raced with the words “Haters Gonna Hate” on his apparel.

Northug was also given a 50-day prison sentence in 2014 for drunkenly crashing his car into a barrier near his home in Trondheim. He reportedly served it outside of jail while wearing an ankle cuff.

Norway should do well even without Northug in PyeongChang. The top two skiers this World Cup season are Norwegians Johannes Klaebo and Martin Johnsrud Sundby.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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

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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 and the NBC Sports app and airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBCSN.

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