Steve Holcomb

Steven Holcomb crashes in Winterberg four-man bobsled

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Steven Holcomb‘s four-man bobsled win streak came to a disastrous end in Winterberg, Germany, on Saturday.

The Olympic champion crashed in the second of two runs and finished in 20th place behind winner Max Arndt of Germany.

“Gotta push it,” Holcomb said after getting out of his sled at the finish. “Gotta try.”

Holcomb also crashed in the same curve in training earlier this week. The other U.S. drivers in Winterberg also crashed this week — Nick Cunningham in training and Cory Butner in the first run Saturday.

“Corner nine has always been an interesting corner because there’s not a lot of variance in finding the right line,” U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “You have to be on the right line or you’ll go over, and finding that spot is tough when you’ve only had two training runs in four-man.”

The Winterberg Bobsled World Cup concludes with two-woman and four-man races Sunday. Universal Sports will have coverage.

Holcomb, who won the first seven races of the World Cup season in North America, has not won a race in Europe since Dec. 13, 2009, also in Winterberg. He was seventh in a two-man event Friday and second after the first run Saturday.

Cunningham, the only U.S. pilot not to crash Saturday, finished 12th. Butner was 25th.

The U.S. needs strong finishes from Cunningham and Butner this weekend and the next two weekends to qualify three sleds for Sochi.

Three nations will qualify three sleds via international rankings, and the U.S. was the third and final nation with three qualified sleds in rankings going into this weekend’s races. Russia, which had three sleds in the top 15 on Saturday, was right on its heels.

“It’s all about character now,” Shimer said. “Life unfortunately gives you ups and downs, and the higher you go, the steeper you fall. We’ve all been through it, and we were prepared for the low. These guys are determined, probably the most motivated they’ve ever been, and whatever happens we keep looking ahead with the big picture in mind.”

Winterberg Four-Man
1. Max Arndt (GER) 1:49.97
2. Francesco Friedrich (GER) 1:50.14
3. Aleksander Zubkov (RUS) 1:50.17
12. Nick Cunningham (USA) 1:50.84
20. Steve Holcomb (USA) 1:52.32
25. Cory Butner (USA) 57.65

Lolo Jones on USA-1 on Sunday

U.S. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.