U.S. men’s results at Worlds likely to impact 2018 Olympics

Max Aaron
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BOSTON — If two of the three U.S. men’s skaters at this week’s World Championships struggle, it could have a domino effect into the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

That’s because nations’ finishes at every year’s Worlds determine entry numbers for the next year’s Worlds. And at next year’s Worlds, Olympic entry numbers are likely to be determined, though the International Skating Union hasn’t officially announced qualifying procedures yet.

The two best finishes of the three U.S. men competing this week must add up to 13 or fewer (fifth and eighth, for example) to keep three U.S. men’s spots for the 2017 Worlds.

Three spots over two at the 2017 Worlds will be key for the Olympics, because it allows the U.S. to throw away its weakest finish at 2017 Worlds for Olympic qualifying purposes. If the U.S. has only two skaters entered, there is no margin for error.

Take the last Olympic cycle for example.

In 2013, Aaron finished a respectable seventh in his Worlds debut, but veteran teammate Ross Miner was 14th. Their combined total — 21 — kept the U.S. at two men’s skaters for the Sochi Winter Games, its first time at fewer than the maximum of three since 1998.

“I was hoping and I had a feeling that Ross was going to show up because he had been there before, that he was going to lead the way, and I was going to go out there and throw everything I’ve got at it,” Aaron recalled Monday. “Unfortunately, Ross had a rough skate.”

If the U.S. had a third skater at the 2013 Worlds, it could have thrown away Miner’s 14th place and potentially secured three spots for Sochi.

It didn’t, and Aaron was left in the worst position in January 2014, missing the Olympic team by finishing third at the U.S. Championships.

This week, one of the U.S. trio of Rippon, Aaron and Worlds rookie Grant Hochstein could struggle and have his result thrown away.

Even with that cushion, reaching that 13 number will be a challenge. The field includes the top five skaters from the Grand Prix season, none of which are Americans. If everyone skates their best, sixth or seventh places might be the best the Americans can hope for.

The best previous Worlds finish by Aaron or Rippon was Rippon’s sixth in 2010.

“If I could predict the future, I would tell you what’s going to happen,” Aaron said. “Adam, with his [U.S.] champion status right now, hopefully can lead the way. … If I can bring out the quads [jumps], we’ll see.”

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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