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Julia Mancuso out for season due to hip surgery

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Julia Mancuso, a four-time Olympic medalist, will miss the entire Alpine skiing season after she undergoes hip surgery Wednesday.

“If I were to try to push through, get more treatments and try to ski this season, I would just be setting myself back towards the real goal, which is PyeongChang 2018,” Mancuso said in a press release. “My goal is to be strong enough to freeski at the end of March, but conservatively, it depends on the outcome of the surgery.”

Mancuso cut her 2014-15 season short due to right hip pain, a problem area throughout her career that intensified after she fell on her right side in a giant slalom in Are, Sweden, on Dec. 12, and later skipped the World Cup Finals in March.

She then hit her head on a reef, needing 15 staples among her hair, according to her Instagram in late May. She didn’t race in the season-opening giant slalom Oct. 24. The second and third races of the season are Nov. 28-29 in Aspen, Colo.

“We used this year’s prep season to exhaust all conservative treatment,” U.S. Ski Team medical director Kyle Wilkens said in a press release. “Unfortunately, those efforts were not successful and she has elected to go forth with surgery.”

Mancuso, 31, competed at every World Cup Finals, World Championships and Olympics since 2005 up until last season’s World Cup Finals, racking up the most Alpine medals by a U.S. woman in history (nine combined Olympic/Worlds medals) and six top-three finishes in World Cup discipline standings.

She last won an international race Feb. 21, 2012, though Mancuso did earn a 2014 Olympic super combined bronze medal.

Mancuso has 395 World Cup starts dating to her Nov. 20, 1999, debut, which is 13 starts shy of the women’s record held by retired Austrian Renate Goetschl.

The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games would be her fifth Olympics. No U.S. woman previously competed in five Winter Games.

Mancuso’s absence means that eight of the 11 women who earned 2014 Olympic Alpine medals are not competing this season, via injuries, retirements and Tina Maze‘s break.

Lindsey Vonn, coming back from a broken ankle, and Mikaela Shiffrin are the favorites for the biggest prize in the sport this season, the World Cup overall title.

MORE: Bode Miller to join NBC Sports Alpine coverage

Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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MORE: Olympic aerials champion retires to coach