Jahvid Best
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Jahvid Best, former Detroit Lions RB, named to Saint Lucia Olympic team

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By Nick Zaccardi and Seth Rubinroit

Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best has been submitted and approved for Saint Lucia’s Olympic track and field team and is set to become the first person with previous NFL experience to compete in a Summer Games.

“Above all else I’m excited to get out there and make my country and family proud,” Best said in a statement to NBC Olympics.

Best, a former California high school sprinter with a Saint Lucian father who holds dual citizenship, was a 2010 first-round draft pick whose football career was cut short after two seasons due to concussions.

He has been doing sprint training at the Altis center in Arizona, home of many elite Olympic athletes, for at least one year.

Best registered on the Olympic radar on April 2, when he ran a personal-best 10.16 seconds for the 100m with nearly the maximum allowable legal tailwind (1.9 meters/second) at a small meet in California.

That met the Olympic qualifying standard of 10.16 seconds or faster (on the dot), but the IAAF must also recognize the results as official.

The small meet’s director said in May they hadn’t considered sending results to the IAAF to be recognized. In June, after the director learned Best had run an Olympic qualifying time at the meet, those results finally appeared on Best’s IAAF profile.

But Best was still an American runner up until this week, though never in international competition, which was key to him being able to represent Saint Lucia in Rio.

He did not compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he would not have made the Olympic team as the U.S. has several sprinters who are faster.

But Saint Lucia does not have faster sprinters. Best’s Saint Lucia representation issues were solved, clearing the way for him to compete in Rio.

“This is a huge accomplishment for me, but at the same time this is just the beginning,” Best said. “I have only been in this sport for two years professionally, and plan on being around for a long time.”

Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island that debuted at the Olympics in 1996, has never sent more than six athletes to an Olympics and never earned a medal, according to sports-reference.com.

Best, given he hasn’t improved on that 10.16, would be fortunate to make the Olympic 100m semifinals.

About 40 NFL players have competed in the Olympics, but almost all of them have done so before playing their first regular-season game.

One athlete with prior NFL regular-season experience has competed at the Olympics, but it was at the Winter Games — 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker in bobsled at Albertville 1992.

Another NFL player could join Best in Rio. New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is a candidate for the U.S. Olympic rugby team expected to be named any day now.

Three other athletes with NFL experience failed to make Rio Olympic teams.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin finished seventh in the long jump at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on July 3. Goodwin, who finished 10th at the London Olympics before starting his NFL career, came into the meet with the two best jumps in the world for the year but strained a hamstring in qualifying at Trials. 

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts return specialist Jeff Demps was eliminated in the first round of the 100m at the Olympic Track and Field Trials. Demps was a member of the U.S. 4x100m relay team at London 2012, taking a silver medal that later had to be returned due to teammate Tyson Gay‘s doping.

Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne made a quixotic bid for the world’s best rugby sevens team — Fiji — but did not make the final 12-man roster.

MORE: Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills WR, misses U.S. Olympic team

Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.