Stein Eriksen
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Stein Eriksen, Olympic champion Alpine skier, dies at 88

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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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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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It’s Nathan Chen’s time at nationals for a feat 32 years in the making

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Nathan Chen can join Brian Boitano in U.S. figure skating history this week, a decade after holding Boitano in the palm of his hands with a program set to music from “Kung Fu Panda.”

Chen seeks a fourth straight national title in Greensboro, N.C. He would be the seventh man to do so since World War II. Five of the previous six won Olympic titles — Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano from 1985-88.

Boitano remembered the first time he met Chen. He and Kristi Yamaguchi were compelled to leave their seats to find the teeny, tiny wunderkind who performed that program to the 2008 DreamWorks film.

“He was taking off his skates, and he probably came up to our waist,” Boitano said. “We knew when we saw him back then that he was going to be something special. He was really quiet. He’s still very quiet.”

In an interview last week, Chen focused on the present — coming back from a two-week cold or flu bug — rather than the perspective.

“I don’t like to typically think about that,” Chen said when asked about his streak. “It’s just different [from year to year]. It’s not really necessarily easier or harder.”

It is also different from previous eras. The last five men to win four in a row did it all in one Olympic cycle, then stepped away from competition after the Winter Games. That was back when turning professional meant the end of an Olympic career.

“It was kind of the norm back then,” Hamilton said. “After that it was kind of back and forth a lot [until Chen]. The business of skating changed so skaters could stay in a lot more, a lot longer. With all the money they brought in, they were able to prevent skaters from turning professional. So that brought in a different approach to nationals.”

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Both Hamilton and six-time (non-consecutive) U.S. champion Todd Eldredge could think of just one name to compare Chen’s dominance in the history of U.S. men’s skating: Button, who won the first seven national titles after World War II, plus two Olympic golds.

Button earned national and world titles as a Harvard student. Chen is on a two-season win streak while majoring in statistics and data science at Yale. Button was the first skater to land a double Axel and a triple jump of any kind. Chen was the first to land six quads in one free skate.

Eldredge coaches skaters at the same rink where Chen trains when Chen visits his Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutunian. He is awed by watching Chen working out. Though Eldredge owns more national titles, he never felt the massive favorite status that accompanies Chen.

Eldredge competed in the post-Hamilton/Boitano era, when national champions began competing over multiple Olympic cycles. Eldredge ebbed and flowed from his first national title in 1990, when compulsory figures were still around, to 2002, when he defeated Timothy Goebel, then known as the Quad King.

“Physically, the demands of the sport take their toll on your body,” Eldredge said. “It’s hard to maintain that same level for that length of period of time.

“[In] 12 years [since Chen’s first national title], when he’s 29 years old, is he going to be able to continue to sustain that?”

All of the recent top U.S. men competed in multiple Olympic cycles. The last multiple national champion was Jeremy Abbott, who earned two titles each in two different Olympic cycles. Abbott finished his career in a third Olympic cycle, placing fifth at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Abbott didn’t remember that Chen made his senior nationals debut that year, finishing eighth at age 15.

“For me, winning the third and the fourth [titles] were harder because I started thinking about winning,” Abbott said. “After the second one, I was heading into a new quad and I was two-time U.S. champion. Then my focus was, oh, I’m expected to win. So that was a harder mental game rather than just focusing on making an Olympic team. The expectation now that I’ve done this twice in a row, I’m expected to win again and again and again.”

Abbott and Chen came up in the era of the points-based judging system instituted in 2004.

“Now with the way the scoring system is very different [from the old 6.0], cumulative points, if you have a bad day as a national champion, that’s it. You can’t get the points,” Eldredge said. “[In previous eras], if a certain skater was, I’ll say politically supposed to be the champion, you got a higher score, and rightfully so in most cases.”

Chen has the benefit of going into competitions knowing the kind of advantage he has in base value points from his jumping arsenal. He won last year’s national title by 58 points. This international season, he is 80 points clear of the next-highest-ranked U.S. man, Jason Brown.

“I don’t think that the try-to-push technique is necessarily my goal here,” at nationals, Chen said. “Hopefully just to maintain my body, maintain my health and try to prepare myself for the second half of the season.”

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.