Joss Christensen
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Joss Christensen eyes farewell at Pyeongchang Olympics after trying times since Sochi gold

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Joss Christensen thought life would work out a little smoother after he became the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle champion in Sochi.

It didn’t quite, and now, more than halfway to the next Winter Games, he’s looking at Pyeongchang as a finale. Christensen may do a contest here or there after the 2018 Olympics, assuming he qualifies to defend his gold medal, but the 2017-18 season should be the end.

“This, for sure, is going to be the last push,” Christensen said at the U.S. Ski Team Gold Medal Gala in New York last week. “I’ll be 30 for Beijing [2022 Winter Olympics], and that just might be a little too old to try and keep up with the younger kids.”

Christensen, then 22, led a U.S. ski slopestyle podium sweep in Sochi and dedicated the surprise victory to his father, who had died of a congenital heart problem six months earlier. Christensen hadn’t qualified for the U.S. Olympic team outright that winter but was the one discretionary selection on the roster of four men’s slopestyle skiers.

Following the gold, Christensen actually lost his ski sponsor and went for a period without a full outerwear sponsor while Oakley restructured, he said, citing fewer people buying ski products altogether.

“It’s a big dog fight out there,” said Christensen, an enterprising spirit who recently helped develop slvsh.com, which combines the basketball game “HORSE” with freestyle skiing. (Unrelated to Christensen’s choice of words, he also needed 30 to 40 injections, including rabies and tetanus shots, after a dog bit him in Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after Sochi.)

Last season, Christensen broke his left hand on the second day of Winter X Games practice in Aspen, Colo (video here). Christensen then bruised his knee and suffered cartilage damage in the second of three finals runs and finished ninth overall, his lowest in four X Games appearances.

Then he separated a shoulder in practice at X Games Oslo in February.

He has a plate in the hand now and also underwent surgery on the long-problemsome left knee in the summer. He hasn’t skied off jumps in seven months but expects to return to competition at the Winter Dew Tour in December.

“It’s been quite a while since I felt confident on a slope course,” said Christensen, who got an Australian Shepherd-labrador mix, Luna, for companionship after all the setbacks.

“I hate the word ‘retire,'” Christensen said. “My plan is to focus on other things in skiing after the next Olympics because I’ve spent 10-plus years doing this now. It’s been super fun. It’s treated me super well. I hope to end on a good note.”

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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MORE: Olympic vault champion retires