Steve Holcomb, Elana Meyers win U.S. bobsled selection races

Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton
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Olympic champion Steve Holcomb and Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers began their Olympic seasons successfully, winning the first two-man U.S. bobsled selection races Saturday.

Holcomb, with Steve Langton, took the men’s event with a two-run time of 1 minute, 54.28 seconds. Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson were second (1:55.23), followed by Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley (1:55.52).

Holcomb has a bye onto the national team based on last season’s results but competed anyway.

“I made a mistake the first time I had a bye by taking it too lightly and just going through the motions,” Holcomb said, according to a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) release.  “I didn’t feel ready for the competitive season because we didn’t rehearse race day.  Today we did everything just like a race.  It’s good practice since there isn’t any pressure to win.”

Holcomb and Langton were the 2012 world champions in the two-man. Butner and Cunningham were the second- and third-best U.S. pilots in the World Cup two-man standings last season and are favored to join Holcomb as Olympic team pilots.

Meyers, with Aja Evans, captured the women’s races in 1:57.21. Jamie Greubel and Katie Eberling followed in 1:57.92, and Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones were third in 1:58.60.

Like Holcomb, Meyers has a bye onto the national team.

“I’m a slow starter,” said Meyers, the 2013 World Championships silver medalist.  “I need some time to get back into it.  It feels really good to get race experience, because race day is different than a training session.  The adrenaline is higher, and you have to deal with the stakes-whether you win or lose.  My goal is to get better every week and to continue improving my driving skills.”

The fourth-place team was an interesting pair — 2010 Olympian Bree Schaaf, coming back from hip surgery, and Lauryn Williams, a three-time Olympic sprinter who won silver in the 100m at the 2004 Games.

Meyers, Greubel and Fenlator were the top three U.S. pilots in the last World Cup season. The U.S. will likely qualify the maximum three women’s sleds for Sochi. Evans, Eberling, Jones, Williams and Emily Azevedo are considered the front-runners for three push athlete spots.

Azevedo did not compete in Lake Placid but is expected to be on one of the teams when selection races continue in Park City in two weeks.

The national team will be named Oct. 26 for the World Cup season, which begins Nov. 30 in Calgary. The U.S. Olympic team will be largely based on World Cup results.

Video: How bobsledders train without ice

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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