Stein Eriksen, Olympic champion Alpine skier, dies at 88

Stein Eriksen
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Stein Eriksen had the perfect hair, the perfect form on the hill and typically the perfect line down the course.

So stylish and graceful on the slopes — he could even perform impressive tricks — the Norwegian great helped usher in modern skiing. He died Sunday at his home in Park City, Utah. He was 88.

His death was confirmed by Deer Valley Resort, where Eriksen served as director of skiing for more than 35 years.

Eriksen rose to prominence at the 1952 Winter Olympics in his hometown of Oslo when he captured gold in the giant slalom and silver in the slalom. Two years later, he won three gold medals at the World hampionships in Are, Sweden.

“To be an Olympic and World champion has been a trademark for me,” Eriksen said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune in 2009. “But the appreciation that the American people have for champions has enhanced that value in a way that made it possible for me to enjoy life without too much effort.”

The charismatic Eriksen became the face of the sport and portrayed it in a new, exciting way. His somersaults were epic — and an early prelude to the tricks in freestyle skiing.

“He’s a legend,” Norwegian World Cup racer Kjetil Jansrud said.

Although from Norway, Eriksen lived in the U.S. for the last six decades, holding one position after another at various ski resorts around the country. He was director of skiing and a ski school instructor at Snowmass, Colo. He taught skiing at Sugarbush, Vt. He even owned his own shop in Aspen, Colo., in addition to being the ski school director.

There were also stops in Heavenly Valley, Calif., and Boyne Mountain, Mich., before settling in at Deer Valley.

“His influence in the ski industry and at this resort was infinite and his legacy will always be a fundamental aspect of Deer Valley,” said Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley president and general manager. “He was a true inspiration.”

So much so that he became an honored member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1982, one of the many awards and accolades he received throughout his lifetime. According to a Deer Valley release, Eriksen even earned the Knight First Class honor in 1997 by His Majesty the King of Norway as a reward for outstanding service in the interest of his country.

This much also is certain: Eriksen left an indelible impression with Norwegian racers.

“It’s sad that he’s gone, but he had a lot of cool experiences in his lifetime and I’m guessing he was blessed and happy with what he accomplished,” said Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who won Olympic gold, silver and bronze at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

As an up-and-coming racer, Jansrud was once invited to Eriksen’s house — along with the rest of the Norwegian team — and regaled with story after story.

“He did a back flip every day at noon in Park City until he was like 80 years old,” Jansrud said. “He was doing what he loved.”

About that hair, it was always styled just right. Or as Jansrud said, “flawless.”

Same with the way he skied. He made turns on a hill look so elegant.

“I guess that’s why he went to the U.S. and got on the pro [tour]. He was way too smooth for World Cup,” Jansrud joked.

Tiger Shaw, the president of U.S. skiing, said in a statement that Eriksen’s “legacy will live on in the ski racers of today and in the sport he loved so much.”

As a show of respect, the torch outside the Deer Valley lodge bearing Eriksen’s name was extinguished.

“His celebrity charisma created a special ambiance whether within the Lodge, our restaurant or out on the mountain, that was warm and inviting,” said Dennis Suskind, the president of Stein Eriksen Lodge. “He was a real friend and will be missed.”

Eriksen is survived by his wife, Francoise; son, Bjorn; three daughters, Julianna, Ava and Anja; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Stein Jr.

In 1994, Eriksen helped carry the Olympic Flag into the Lillehammer Winter Games Opening Ceremony.

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Hail Ilia Malinin’s first U.S. figure skating title for six-quad ambition, Jason Brown’s advice

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SAN JOSE, California – Ilia Malinin clearly will have mixed emotions when he remembers winning his first U.S. figure skating title.

That was apparent from his reaction after finishing Sunday’s free skate.

The 18-year-old with limitless potential and seemingly limitless confidence had been rattled by his worst free skate of the season.

He shook his head sadly. Then he shook it again.

“Of course, this wasn’t the skate I wanted, but there’s always ups and downs, and you just after get over it and move on,” Malinin said.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

He planned the hardest technical program anyone ever had attempted, with six quadruple jumps and two challenging combinations in the second half of the four-minute program. And he gamely kept trying to execute it, even after significant mistakes that would leave him second to surprising Andrew Torgashev in the free skate.

Malinin (287.74 total points) still finished comfortably ahead of the evergreen Jason Brown (277.31). Torgashev was third overall at 256.56.

Malinin skated with doggedness rather the dynamism that infused his brilliant short program Friday, by far his best short program of the season.

“I think I was just a little bit sluggish, and I just wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen,” he said.

Malinin fell on his opening jump, the quadruple Axel, then reeled off three other quads flawlessly. He popped two other planned quads into doubles, then turned his final jumping pass, planned as a sequence of two jumps, into an unprecedented triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe loop sequence. For context: only Malinin has done a triple Lutz-triple Axel sequence.

“I think its’s not that I was planning too much,” he said. “I think it was I wasn’t really prepared for this amount. And it was mostly because we were focusing on that short program.”

Brown, 28, who first competed at senior nationals 12 years ago, skated magnificently. If it weren’t for a fall on his ambitious final free skate jump, a triple flip coming out of a knee slide, Brown’s overall performance in both the short and free would have been as good as any he had done in the U.S. Championships.

With his longevity and insight, Brown, a two-time Olympian and seven-time national medalist (gold in 2015) was able to put what had befallen Malinin into accurate perspective and encourage him not to lose confidence over it.

Brown heard the press conference questions Malinin was getting over what went wrong, questions both legitimate and expected, and he wanted his younger teammate not to dwell on them.

“You did a triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe at the end of your program, and I did a knee slide and could barely stand up to do the flip,” Brown said to Malinin, sitting next to him at the dais.

“The way you keep pushing the sport is incredible. So don’t stop being you.”

Malinin, an unexpected second at last year’s nationals, came here under a spotlight brighter than any he had experienced, largely due to his history-making success earlier this season as the first to land a quad Axel in competition.

For all his disarming bravado, evidenced by choosing quadg0d as his social media name, Malinin is not immune to the pressure of a big event and his position as favorite.

“There is an amount of experience (necessary) that it takes time to get,” Brown said. “I’ve been through it all. I’ve had a lot of ups, I’ve had a lot of downs. As you (Malinin) said, it’s how you take this experience and learn from it and grow from it. That’s what you’re going to do.”

Both Malinin and Brown leave Monday to perform eight shows in three Swiss cities over 11 days with the Art on Ice tour. They are both expected to be on the U.S. team for the world championships this March in Japan.

Malinin leaves with the title and the satisfaction of not having minimized risk given his big lead after the short program.

“This was an opportunity for me to try this new layout,” Malinin said. “Of course, it didn’t go off the best. We’ll take advice from this and look forward to worlds.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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