Lacrosse is charging hard for a 2024 Olympic return

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If lacrosse supporters have their way, their sport will follow in the footsteps of golf — and things in the year 2024 might look a bit like they did back in the first decade of the 20th century.

The FIL Lacrosse Championship begins Thursday, July 10 in Denver, where a record 38 nations will compete. Organizers of the U.S. squad say the high participation rate is a sign that lacrosse is gaining traction in its fight to return to the Olympics.

Lacrosse, like golf, was one of the earliest sports of the modern Olympics. Also like golf, Olympic medals have not been awarded in lacrosse in over 100 years; lacrosse was a medal sport at the 1904 and 1908 Olympics and a demonstration event at the 1948 London Olympics. Golf was a medal event at the 1904 St. Louis Games. But the two sports part ways there, because while lacrosse is still fighting to make its return to the Olympic stage, golf is set to be played in Rio in 2016.

As detailed by Lacrosse Magazine, Team USA took a break from prepping for its opening FIL Championship match against Canada when players and coaches toured the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs Monday night, and it was there they got a taste of what it would be like to be an Olympic team.

FIL director of development Tom Hayes told Lax Magazine that the sport is targeting 2024 for a return to the Olympics, and that several milestones have been met in recent years that have left him hopeful the goal is more than just a pipedream. In the last three years lacrosse has been accepted by SportAccord and the International World Games Association (IWGA), two major international sporting federations, and it was also awarded a berth in the 2017 IWGA World Games, which could serve as a platform to raise its international profile even higher.

“It’s like you’re in a dream. We’ve hit our target dates right on the money, every one of them,” Hayes said. “Now we’re wondering, there has to be some road bump somewhere, but who knows? If you’re a hot sport and they see the growth, not only in the number of countries but number of participants, who knows?”

First grass planted on Rio Olympic golf course

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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