Tervel Dlagnev overcomes back injury to lead U.S. Olympic wrestling qualifiers

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Two days ago, Tervel Dlagnev didn’t think he’d be wrestling at the U.S. Olympic Trials or perhaps ever again.

“I was about to quit,” Dlagnev said on NBCSN, adding later, “I had a really, really weird, scary pain go down my back and into my legs. I don’t want to go through that again. At that point, I wasn’t even thinking about performance. I was thinking about my future and playing with my boys.”

Dlagnev saw a chiropractor and persevered to join two fellow 2012 U.S. Olympians in becoming the first three members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Iowa City on Saturday night.

All three wrestlers to clinch Rio berths — Dlagnev, Elena Pirozhkova and Ben Provisor — did so in sweeps of best-of-three finals at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Dlagnev, bad back and all, bounced Zach Rey in the freestyle 125kg finals, repeating the result of the 2014 and 2015 World Championships Team Trials finals.

Dlagnev lost a bronze-medal match in London and in Rio will try to become the first U.S. super heavyweight to earn an Olympic medal since 1996.

Pirozhkova, who ousted Erin Clodgo in the women’s 63kg finals, goes back to the Games after losing her only match at London 2012. She earned World Championships gold in 2012, silver in 2010 and 2014 and bronze in 2013.

“Last time around, I was just so happy to make an Olympic team,” the Russian-born Pirozhkova said, adding, “Opening Ceremonies, you see the flame being lit, that kind of stuff really takes your breath away. For me, it took away from my wrestling. So now I’ve been through that. I want another chance to win a gold medal.”

Provisor dumped Jake Clark in the Greco-Roman 85kg finals, after not making any of the three World Championships teams since he went 1-1 at London 2012.

Since the last Olympics, Provisor said he had back surgery, a pinched nerve, removed a bone spur, a sports hernia surgery, a grade-three hamstring tear and a torn forearm tendon that required surgery.

“It’s been a long road,” said Provisor, whose wife, Leigh Jaynes-Provisor, earned a World bronze medalist last year.

Jaynes-Provisor had to compete one weight class higher than expected on Saturday because she didn’t make weight and lost her first match.

In other classes not yet qualified for Rio on Saturday night:

  • Frank Molinaro beat Bellator MMA signee Aaron Pico, 19, in men’s freestyle 65kg.
  • London Olympian Kelsey Campbell swept Alli Ragan in women’s 58kg.
  • Tamyra Mensah swept Brittany Roberts in women’s 69kg.
  • Jesse Thielke swept 2008 Uzbekistan Olympian Ildar Hafizov in Greco-Roman 59kg.
  • RaVaughn Perkins, who served a doping ban and didn’t wrestle in 2015, beat Pat Smith in Greco-Roman 66kg.
  • Joe Rau beat Caylor Williams in Greco-Roman 98kg.

Those winners can qualify for the Olympics at international tournaments later this spring.

The U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials conclude Sunday with preliminary matches beginning at 10 a.m. ET and finals at 7 p.m. ET, both on NBC Sports Live Extra.

Both reigning U.S. Olympic champions — Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner — and all four reigning U.S. World champions — Adeline GrayHelen MaroulisKyle Snyder and Burroughs — wrestle Sunday.

MORE: Olympic, World champs could vie for one Olympic spot

Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter passes away

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Jake Burton Carpenter, the pioneer who brought snowboarding to the masses and helped turn the sport into a billion-dollar business and Olympic showpiece, has died at 65.

He died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, according to an email sent to the staff of the company he founded. Carpenter had emailed his staff this month saying, “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back.” He had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 but after several months of therapy had been given a clean bill of health.

Carpenter quit his job in New York in 1977 to form the company now known simply as Burton. His goal was to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a “Snurfer,” which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier.

It worked, and more than four decades later, snowboarding is a major fixture at the Winter Games and snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff.

Grieving Mikaela Shiffrin returns to World Cup Alpine action with fourth reindeer at stake

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The traditional World Cup Alpine skiing season opener last month in Soelden, Austria, was an emotional one for Mikaela Shiffrin.

Shiffrin’s grandmother, Pauline Condron, was in declining health in the days leading up to the race, making Shiffrin wonder if she should head home instead of staying in Soelden. Condron was especially close to Shiffrin, helping to take care of her soon after birth.

Condron passed away Oct. 22, four days before the Soelden giant slalom, at age 98.

“Polly loved sports,” Condron’s obituary said. “She was an avid bowler in her younger years and enjoyed playing tennis and skiing. Few people know that she excelled at ping pong, had a killer serve, gave up very few games and played into her 90s.”

Condron was able to see Shiffrin in person at World Cup races in Killington, Vt. The World Cup will return next weekend to Killington, which has just passed its FIS inspection.

Shiffrin finished second in Soelden’s giant slalom to an upstart rival, 17-year-old New Zealander Alice Robinson. Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the giant slalom, but she hasn’t won in Soelden since 2014.

In the slalom, Shiffrin is more dominant. She won eight of nine World Cup races last year, losing only to Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, and won her fourth straight world championship despite battling illness. The last time Shiffrin finished worse than second in the technical discipline was in the 2018 Olympics, when she uncharacteristically faltered and finished fourth.

Saturday’s race in Levi, Finland, is a slalom. Shiffrin has won three of the last five races in Levi, which means she also has three reindeer  Rudolph, Sven and Mr. Gru. She can win a fourth on Saturday.

The men also have a slalom this weekend in Levi, racing Sunday.

Both runs for each event stream live on NBC Sports Gold at 4:15 and 7 a.m. ET, with the Olympic Channel also carrying the second runs each day.

MORE: Alpine skiing TV schedule

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