Former Bills, Packers wide receiver makes U.S. Olympic Team

Johnny Quinn
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Johnny Quinn, a former offseason wide receiver with the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers, is the latest football player to make a U.S. Olympic Team.

Quinn was named as a push athlete on the USA-2 four-man sled Sunday night.

He signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent out of North Texas in 2007 and was cut three days before training camp. He played in four preseason games with the Packers in 2008, catching four passes for 32 yards, before being cut.

He played in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009, tearing an ACL in the last game of the regular season. The Roughriders lost the Grey Cup, 28-27, to the Montreal Alouettes on a time-expiring field goal.

Quinn rehabbed at four-time Olympic champion sprinter Michael Johnson‘s athletic performance center in his native Texas but was cut by the Canadian team nonetheless.

“My football career didn’t go the way I anticipated,” said Quinn, who also sprinted on the North Texas track team. “I knew I still wanted to compete. They look for former football players with a track background [in bobsled].”

His football agent doubled as the agent for 2002 Olympic silver medalist bobsledder Todd Hays, a fellow Texan and converted college football player. Quinn began bobsledding in the 2010-11 season and became a regular member of U.S. driver Nick Cunningham‘s four-man crew this season.

“I’ve been on the other side of the fence when you get your name not called,” Quinn, 30, said. “I’ve learned getting cut three times that life moves on. I am very pleased, though, that my name was called and I get to represent the United States.”

source: Getty Images
Johnny Quinn (right) takes part in the traditional bike ride at Packers training camp. (Getty Images)

The only NFL player to previously compete in a Winter Olympics was Herschel Walker, according to sports-reference.com. The Heisman Trophy winner finished seventh in two-man bobsled in 1992.

The other 41 NFL players to compete in an Olympics did so in a Summer Olympics — 34 in track and field, six in wrestling and one in handball.

Former 49ers receiver Renaldo Nehemiah competed in bobsled and track and field, holding the 110m hurdles world record for a time, but never competed in an Olympics.

Nehemiah and Bears and Raiders wide receiver Willie Gault were set to compete in the 1980 Olympics in track and field before the U.S. boycott. Gault, too, dabbled in bobsled but never competed in the Winter Games.

Of course, the most successful NFL players in the Summer Olympics were Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes, who won a Super Bowl title and Olympic gold medals in the 100m and 4x100m relay in 1964, and Jim Thorpe.

Thorpe, born in 1887, won the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon in 1912 and began playing in the NFL in 1920.

Lolo Jones, Lauryn Williams join list of Summer/Winter Olympians

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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