Canadian alpine skier to wear helmet designed by teen cancer patient at Sochi Olympics

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Canadian Alpine skier Brad Spence knows a bit about perseverance.

After suffering a pretty gruesome broken leg just before the Torino Olympics in 2006, he was told that he might never ski again. Through sheer determination he made it back to compete on home snow at the Vancouver Olympics four years later.

As Spence takes to the Rosa Khutor slope in Sochi for his second Games, he will bring with him a constant reminder of the power of courage and resolve.

According to a story in the Calgary Herald, the 29-year-old will wear a race helmet adorned with the artwork of Gillian O’Blenes, a 17-year-old cancer patient, when he competes in the men’s slalom on Feb. 22.

“Knowing how much she’s had to overcome … she’s been a huge inspiration to me and I’m just honored to have this opportunity,’’ Spence said.

A promising dancer, O’Blenes is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that affects approximately 400 children under the age of 20 in the United States each year.

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Spence and O’Blenes met through one of her nurses at the hospital and the two struck an immediate friendship. While visiting her in December, he was enamored with some drawings she was doing on a blank piece of paper and he suggested the idea of designing a helmet.source:

“Her doodling to me looked incredible,’’ Spence said. “I left that day thinking I’d love to help her share in my journey to the Olympics. I presented her with a red helmet just before Christmas.’’

After about six hours of work with a Sharpie, she came up with the red, black, white and gold geometric designs on Spence’s helmet.

“I think for me it’s really about perseverance and not giving up, as cliché as that may sound,’’ O’Blenes said. “It was therapeutic to do that helmet. It’s something I can do when I’m waiting in bed and to do it for someone else who believes in me is pretty cool. As much as he always says I inspire him, he’s the one that really inspires me so it’s a mutual relationship.’’

As for being part of Spence’s Olympic experience, O’Blenes added, “I’ll be watching and cheering him on every step of the way. It’ll be super cool to see him race, it’ll be super cool to see him wearing my helmet … how great is that!’’

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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