Seth Wescott

Seth Wescott ‘getting close’ in return from knee injury (video)

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Seth Wescott knows a thing or two about coming back to win Olympic gold.

In 2006, the man from Maine passed Slovakian Radoslav Zidek in the second half of the first Olympic snowboardcross final and edged him out for victory by less than the length of a snowboard.

In 2010, Wescott moved from last place early on to beat Canadian Mike Robertson for gold, also by a matter of inches.

His comeback for the Sochi Olympic snowboardcross is already in motion, two months before the Games.

Wescott, 37, underwent “a complete reconstruction” of his left ACL in April after falling into an Alaska crevasse while shooting part of a film for ski and snowboard director Warren Miller. He tore the ACL and broke his tibia.

“I basically ended up hitting a wall at 40 mph, and when I got to the bottom I knew right away that something was very wrong,” Wescott told TeamUSA.org in August. “The ACL was just gone. Not exactly the way I wanted to start my summer training.”

Wescott, who could become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three straight times, said his knee is “getting close” to competition level on TODAY on Thursday morning.

He’s been testing the knee in Soelden, Austria, earlier this month and, more recently, at home at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley.

Wescott said he will travel with the U.S. team to Lake Louise, Alberta, for a World Cup stop Dec. 21 but doesn’t think he’ll compete there.

“Buying myself three more weeks through the Christmas holidays and just the amount of training that I’ll be able to get in that time, I’ll have some real progress,” Wescott said on TODAY.

Wescott is one of three Olympians trying to become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three straight times (Bonnie Blair is the only U.S. woman to do it). Fellow snowboarder Shaun White (halfpipe) and speed skater Shani Davis (1000m) also won in 2006 and 2010.

Wescott, if they all make the Olympic team, would be the last of the three to make the attempt. Men’s snowboardcross in Sochi is Feb. 17, five days after Davis’ 1000m and six days after White’s halfpipe.

He might even go after a fourth gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. Wescott’s been inspired by surfing legend Kelly Slater, who at 41 is trying to win his 12th world title this week.

“I never would have thought, even post-Torino, that I’d be going right now,” said Wescott, who will be 41 in 2018. “To be honest, I’m getting better at it every year. … The time point where I decide to walk away will be when I feel that there’s stagnation.”

Olympic snowboardcross contender breaks collarbone in training

Penny Oleksiak edges Simone Manuel, Regan Smith sizzles again in Knoxville

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Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel nearly duplicated their Olympic gold-medal tie. The Canadian Oleksiak edged Manuel by .03 in the 100m freestyle at a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday night.

Oleksiak clocked 53.41 seconds, coming back from .37 behind Manuel at the 50-meter mark. The two tied for the Rio Olympic title in an Olympic record 52.70 seconds four years ago. Oleksiak was the surprise, a 16-year-old who came into the Games ranked eighth in the world for the year.

Since, Manuel swept the 2017 and 2019 World titles. Oleksiak was sixth at 2017 Worlds and withdrew before the 100m free at 2019 Worlds. She ranked 21st in the world last year. Oleksiak’s time Sunday was her fastest since 2017.

Full Knoxville meet results are here. The Pro Series’ next stop is Des Moines from March 4-7.

In other events Sunday, world-record holder Regan Smith won the 200m backstroke in 2:05.94, the fastest time ever outside of a national championships or major international meet. Smith, 17, achieved the same feat on Saturday in the 100m back, where she also broke the world record at last summer’s worlds.

Madisyn Cox won a matchup of the three fastest U.S. women in the 200m individual medley in 2019. She clocked 2:09.88, beating Alex Walsh by a half-second and Melanie Margalis by .54.

It was Cox’s fastest time since she took bronze at the 2017 World Championships. She missed the 2019 Worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.

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Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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