Annie O’Shea wins first World Cup skeleton race

Annie O'Shea
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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Annie O’Shea waited more than four years for her second World Cup medal. And for the U.S. women’s skeleton program, it was an unusually long time between podium trips as well.

The droughts ended Friday, when O’Shea captured gold at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

A brilliant second run vaulted O’Shea into the lead, and the only two sliders who had a chance to beat her couldn’t find enough speed when they needed it on the demanding Lake Placid track. That left O’Shea yelping and jumping for joy, winning her first medal on the circuit since Dec. 10, 2011 and giving the U.S. women’s team its first World Cup win since Noelle Pikus-Pace prevailed in the 2013-14 season finale.

“I’m surprised at how hard it is to put into words,” O’Shea said. “You’d think like you’d know exactly what it would feel like to win, but you really don’t. When I came down and saw the clock say ‘1’ after me I was like, ‘OK, I’m guaranteed third.’ And I was really happy with that.”

But when Switzerland’s Marina Gilardoni didn’t match O’Shea’s time, then silver was guaranteed. And when Britain’s Laura Deas — the final competitor — fell behind O’Shea’s split times, the American knew a World Cup gold would finally be hers.

O’Shea’s two-run time was 1 minute, 50.34 seconds. Gilardoni finished second in 1:50.43, and Britain’s Laura Deas was third in 1:50.59. World Cup leader Tina Hermann of Germany was fourth.

It was a breakthrough for O’Shea, whose average finish in World Cup races before Friday was 13th.

And the seeds for this win were planted over the summer, far away from any sort of track or training.

After a close childhood friend died early last year after a long battle with heart problems, O’Shea found out that she had been working with a life coach. A couple months later O’Shea made the decision to enlist one of her own, looking for ways to separate her everyday life from her athlete life. Going through that process, O’Shea said, has left her more confident than ever.

“I have never been so happy and literally proud of myself,” O’Shea said.

Happy, and healthy, too. Knee surgery after the 2011-12 season derailed her for the better part of the next couple years. That’s no longer a concern, and working on herself has taught her how to avoid carrying stress and problems from the real world onto the track.

There were no problems Friday. When the race was over, she wrapped U.S. coach Zach Lund in a huge hug, then leapt into coach Tuffy Latour‘s arms when he emerged on the finish deck a few minutes later.

“As Tuffy says, ‘Trust the process,'” O’Shea said. “And I definitely did this year.”

VIDEO: Noelle Pikus-Pace shares skeleton stories in emotional Ted Talk

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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