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Olympic aerials champion sets first World Cup in 3 years

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Australian aerials gold medalist Lydia Lassila will compete at the top international stage this weekend for the first time since the Sochi Olympics.

Lassila, who took gold in Vancouver and bronze in Sochi, gave birth to her second son in February 2015 but never retired. She’s in Lake Placid, N.Y., for a World Cup competition Saturday (finals at 8:15 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

“I was hoping that retirement feeling would come – but it kind of never did,” the 34-year-old Lassila said, according to the Australian Olympic Committee. “I’m realistic and have different expectations this time. I’d regret it if I didn’t try again.”

Lassila could become the second Australian to compete at five Winter Olympics after speed skater Colin Coates.

“Life is different now,” Lassila said in November, according to the (Melbourne) Herald Sun. “I’ve got a couple of kids instead of just one and we’re juggling different schedules.

“There’s quite a bit going on, but I’m going to have a crack at being an athlete again and see what we can do and just do what I can.”

Lassila upset the favored Chinese for gold at Vancouver 2010, coming back from two ACL tears in June 2005 and at the Torino Winter Games in February 2006.

She took bronze in Sochi behind Belarus gold medalist Alla Tsuper and Chinese silver medalist Xu Mengtao. Tsuper gave birth to her second child in 2015 and returned to training last year, according to Belarusian media.

Xu is tied atop this season’s World Cup standings with Australian Danielle Scott. Another Australian, Laura Peel, is the reigning world champion.

MORE: Hannah Kearney still dreams of Olympics in retirement

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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