Aja Evans wins bobsled national push championship; Lauryn Williams 3rd, Lolo Jones 5th

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There’s still a long way to go to Sochi, but Aja Evans made an early statement in the competition to make the U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled team by winning a second straight national push championship Thursday.

The national championships combined times of two pushes in Calgary, Canada, to determine standings. The results will help determine the selection of the national team for races this fall.

Evans won with a two-run total of 10.931 seconds. Two-time world medalist Katie Eberling came in second, .06 behind, followed by recent track and field convert Lauryn Williams

Williams, 29, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters, retired from track in June and was convinced to try the new sport by Lolo Jones. 2010 Olymipan Emily Azevedo was fourth, followed by Jones in fifth.

The push athletes are bidding to make the Olympic team, which will likely be made up of three two-woman sleds. Evans, a former collegiate sprinter, medaled in the last two World Cups of the 2012-13 season, her first in the sport.

“I definitely feel more confident this year after my performances last season, and just having a year of sliding under my belt gives me some added confidence,” Evans said in a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation release. “I’m more aware, and I know what to expect this season. Now I can focus on the things that matter, like my technique. I think I can be more explosive off the block, so I’m going to continue working on that with hopes of mastering it before the season.”

Eberling, like Evans, would be a favorite for the Olympic team if it was named today. She won silver with pilot Elana Meyers at the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in January.

“This is the first stage of a long season ahead, so I’m pretty happy with how I performed,” Eberling said. “It’s a different feeling now that I’ve been in the sport for two years, because there’s an expectation to do well now.”

If the U.S. qualifies a third sled for Sochi, which it should, the competition could be tight among the push athletes. Azevedo and Jones were the third and fourth women during the last World Cup season. Williams could be a wild card as she gets used to the ice.

“I am very eager to make the most of the next eight weeks and learn as much as possible,” Williams said. “I want to be a bobsledder.”

The World Cup season begins in Calgary in late November. Results will help determine how many sleds the U.S. will qualify for Sochi and which athletes will make the Olympic team, which was named in mid-January for the 2010 Games.

Drivers and push athletes are planned to pair up for a competition Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

Photo: Lindsey Vonn joins Tiger Woods for practice round at PGA Championship course

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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