Benjamin Raich

Alpine skiing injuries, retirements pile up

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The Alpine skiing World Cup season doesn’t start for more than a month, but several notables are already sidelined.

Start with Austrian Benjamin Raich, the four-time Olympic medalist from 2002 and 2006. Raich, 35, is attempting to make his fourth Olympic team in 2014. He’ll have to come back from a motorbike accident to do so.

Raich’s 175-pound bike landed on his right leg in an early August crash, tearing a muscle in his thigh, according to The Associated Press. He didn’t join the Austrian team for preseason training in Chile, a decision he said was made before the accident.

Raich, the overall World Cup winner in 2006, said he considered retiring and that the Sochi Olympics will be his last, should he make the team.

Austria, long an Alpine power, is home to the world’s best slalom skier, Marcel Hirscher, and medal threats in speed events Klaus Kroell and Hannes Reichelt. But its depth is not too much that Raich couldn’t make it at his advanced age, if fully recovered.

Raich’s longtime girlfriend is three-time Olympic medalist Marlies Schild, not to be confused with Martina Schild, who announced her retirement this week.

Martina, 31, won silver in the 2006 Olympic downhill but had not made the podium in a World Cup or a World Championship race since before the 2010 Olympics. She missed all of last season with a back injury, the same pain forcing her retirement.

“Mentally, I’m no longer ready to push myself to the limit,” she said, according to the Swiss Ski Federation.

Canada’s Kelly VanderBeek, 29 and fourth in the 2006 Olympic super-G, also retired, citing knee problems stemming from tearing her MCL and PCL in a December 2009 crash.

France’s Marion Rolland, the reigning downhill world champion, was set to have an MRI this week after injuring her right knee in a training fall in Chile on Sunday. Rolland, 30, had surgery on her right knee in 2007 and 2010.

Though Rolland won the world title, she may not be among the biggest threats to reigning Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn in Sochi. Rolland has never finished better than sixth in the World Cup downhill standings, a better indicator of Olympic prospects than the World Championships.

Finally, there’s Swede Jens Byggmark, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist in the slalom. Byggmark tore knee ligaments in a training fall earlier this month and announced he would miss the Olympics. The 28-year-old’s best World Cup season came six years ago, but he was top 10 in the slalom the last two years.

Rent out Bode Miller’s house

Emmanuel Korir nearly falls, comes back to win 800m at Pre Classic

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Kenyan Emmanuel Korir overcame getting tripped with 200 meters left to win the 800m on the first day of the Prefontaine Classic on Friday.

Korir was leading when Botswana’s Nijel Amos‘ spike clipped his leg. Korir stumbled, took six steps inside the rail and ceded the lead to Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist.

But Korir overtook Amos on the final straight, winning in 1:45.16, .35 ahead of Amos. The race lacked double Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha, who hasn’t raced since July 4 due to injury.

Korir, 22, ran the fastest 800m in the world last year but was eliminated in the semifinals at the world championships.

Full Pre Classic results are here.

In other events, world champion Sam Kendricks beat the last two Olympic champions in the pole vault, clearing 5.81 meters.

Surprise Rio Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil no-heighted at Pre for a second straight year in his first outdoor meet in 10 months. London Olympic champ and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie didn’t fare much better, exiting at 5.71 meters for fifth place. Lavillenie still holds the top clearance in the world this year of 5.95 meters.

Rio gold medalist Thomas Röhler led a German javelin sweep, throwing a meet record 89.88 meters. World champion Johannes Vetter, who was second with an 89.34-meter throw, still ranks No. 1 in the world this year at 92.70.

In the two-mile, Ethiopian Selemon Barega upset Olympic 5000m silver medalist Paul Chelimo, outsprinting the American and clocking 8:20.01. Chelimo was second in 8:20.91.

The Pre Classic continues Saturday on NBC and NBC Sports Gold with streaming coverage starting at 2:50 p.m. ET.

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Allyson Felix withdraws from Prefontaine Classic

AP
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Allyson Felix withdrew on the eve of the Prefontaine Classic and will miss Saturday’s anticipated 400m showdown with Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and world champion Phyllis Francis.

No reason was given by the meet director at a Friday press conference, according to media in Eugene, Ore.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist and 16-time world outdoor championships medalist, was scheduled to race on the top international level for the first time since Aug. 20. She has raced in smaller meets this season, most recently last Friday.

This is the one year in the four-year cycle without an Olympics or world outdoor championships, making the Diamond League, and the Pre Classic in particular, marquee meets.

“In the 19 years that I’ve been running track, I’ve never taken a break,” the 32-year-old Felix said in an Instagram video Thursday after an intense training session but before her name was taken off Saturday’s start list. “Never had a year where I took it easy. … Now that this is kind of a year without a championship, I’ve had to force myself to have a different approach because my goal is 2020. … To be able to be at my best when it counts, I think that means not having as intense of a year as I usually do. Being a competitor and an athlete, that’s something that I struggle with. … This year, that’s what I’m really trying to force myself to do is have quality races, quality over quantity. … So, if you guys don’t see me at as many of the races as I usually run, don’t worry, I’m fine, I’m just challenging myself to be smarter.”

Felix will miss the Pre Classic for the second time in the last nine years. She was absent in 2016 with an ankle injury.

The USATF Outdoor Championships are in one month.

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