10 peculiar PyeongChang Olympic hopeful stories

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Here are 10 PyeongChang Olympic hopeful stories that range from unique to extremely strange:

Sabrina Simader, Alpine Skiing, Kenya
The first Kenyan Alpine skier to race in the World Cup or at the world championships and, potentially, at the Olympics. Simader moved to Austria at age 3, where she learned to ski.

Joanne Reid, Biathlon, USA
The daughter of 1980 Olympic speed skating bronze medalist Beth Heiden, which makes her the niece of Eric Heiden, who swept all five speed skating golds at Lake Placid 1980. Reid ranks second among U.S. women in World Cup points this season.

Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, Bobsled, Jamaica
The 2014 U.S. Olympian could become the first Jamaican Olympic female bobsled driver after switching to represent the nation of her father’s birth. Fenlator-Victorian earned bronze in a lower-level North American Cup race last month, improving her international ranking for Olympic qualifying.

Sam McGuffie, Bobsled, USA
The latest athlete to attempt the transition from pro football to the Olympics. McGuffie was a YouTube sensation in high school, his highlight videos amassing more than one million views. He went on to play running back at the University of Michigan and bounced around NFL teams, but never played a regular-season game. He took up bobsled in 2015 and has become a mainstay push athlete on the top U.S. sled, a good sign for his PyeongChang prospects.

Luis Moreira, Bobsled, USA
Moreira served six years in the U.S. Army, then earned the title of Texas State Bodybuilding Champion in 2014 before turning to bobsledding in 2015. This season, he has become a regular push athlete for U.S. sleds in World Cup races.

Beau-JamesBryonJackson and Jossi Wells, Freestyle Skiing, New Zealand
Yes, it’s possible that four brothers could compete at the same Winter Olympics (it has happened before, via OlympStats.com). Last season, Beau-James and Bryon ranked in the top 22 in the World Cup halfpipe standings, while Jackson and Jossi made the top 17 in the World Cup slopestyle standings. Beau-James is the biggest question, as he’s been out since July knee surgery. Beau-James and Jossi competed in Sochi.

Mac Bohonnon/Kiley McKinnon, Freestyle Skiing, USA
They were first-grade classmates at Island Avenue Elementary School in Madison, Conn. Bohonnon started aerials first, then convinced McKinnon in a Facebook message to try the sport. They both won the World Cup season title in 2015.

Matt Dalton, Hockey, South Korea
South Korea’s No. 1 goalie is one of several athletes being naturalized in advance of its home Olympics. South Korea received an automatic place in the Olympic men’s hockey field as host nation, but it doesn’t have much of a talent pool. Retired NHL defenseman Jim Paek, the only South Korean-born Stanley Cup winner, is the coach. Dalton was born in Ontario, played NCAA hockey at Bemidji State, was briefly a Boston Bruin in 2010 and now plays in South Korea’s league.

Nathan Crumpton, Skeleton, USA
Born in Nairobi, competed in track and field at Princeton, an award-winning photographer and appeared as a snowboarder in a McDonald’s commercial that aired during the Sochi Olympics. The No. 2 U.S. men’s skeleton slider this World Cup season.

Noriaki Kasai, Ski Jumping, Japan
44 years old. Seeking a record-breaking eighth Winter Olympic appearance after earning his first individual medal in Sochi (silver, large hill). The top Japanese jumper this season, ranking No. 23 in the World Cup standings.

PYEONGCHANG 2018
Storylines | 18 US Stars | 18 Global Stars | Strange Olympic Hopefuls | Key events
Oldest US Olympian? | Youngest US Olympian? | Venue Photo Gallery | North Korea

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly labeled the Wells brothers as Australian.

Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

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Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

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Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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