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Ligety, Vonn, Shiffrin lead U.S. Ski Roster for 2015-16

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Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin lead the 2016 U.S. Alpine Ski Team roster, announced publicly Nov. 21 in Copper Mountain, Colo.

Shiffrin, the Olympic slalom champion, plans to make her World Cup debut in the season’s first super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta. Shiffrin is expected to race giant slalom Nov. 27 in Aspen, Colo. Vonn is also expected in Aspen, making her return to competition after sustaining an ankle injury in New Zealand over the summer.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to win the overall globe, but I think this year is a little bit of a gauge to see where I can stack up,” Shiffrin said in a statement through the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “If my slalom keeps going well then I feel really strong and I can make points. But it’s a little too early to tell right now.”

Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso were also named to the team, though both are inactive. Miller has joined NBC Sports as an analyst, beginning Dec. 4-6 for the men’s World Cup races in Beaver Creek, Colo. He called skiing in Peyongchang 2018 “really unlikely.” Mancusco will miss the 2015-16 season due to hip surgery, but is eyeing the next Olympic Winter Games.

For the first time ever, skiers were named to the national roster posthumously. Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack, killed last January in an avalanche in Austria, were Alpine skiing prospects.

“Ronnie and Bryce were tremendous young men and talented athletes,” U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick said in a press release. “Recognizing them in this way will help us all remember what they meant to us and help to bring a small bit of closure to us all.”

MORE: Miller talks Kitzbuehel, favorite racers, more

Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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