Elana Meyers Taylor
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Bobsled, skeleton world championships broadcast schedule, preview

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Elana Meyers Taylor says she’s starting to become herself again. Good timing, since the world championships start this weekend.

Meyers Taylor is the top U.S. gold-medal hope at bobsled and skeleton worlds in Koenigssee, Germany. Races will stream live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, beginning with first two women’s bobsled runs Friday at 8:15 a.m. ET.

The two-time Olympic medalist Meyers Taylor is riding a four-race winning streak on the World Cup, but it’s taken plenty of physical and mental pain to get here. She suffered a concussion in a race crash in Koenigssee on Jan. 26, 2015, with the after-effects lasting into the 2015-16 season, causing her to miss four races.

This season, Meyers Taylor has competed from the start. But she crashed in the season-opening race in Whistler, B.C., and dealt with back pain for most of the last three months. On top of everything, she struggled with the death of one of her grandfathers in early January.

Meyers Taylor teams this weekend with second-year push athlete Kehri Jones, who ejected out of the back of the sled in that Whistler crash.

Worlds were moved from Sochi, Russia, to Koenigssee two months ago amid the Russian doping scandal. Meyers Taylor showed her Koenigssee crash from two years ago was behind her when she won a World Cup race on the track in January.

“I’m confident on this track,” she said earlier this week. “The last time I was here, I was having trouble in the same spot where I had my crash. A little bit of hesitation, a little bit of problems there. Now, everything seems to be clicking down there.”

Meyers Taylor’s goal every season (outside of the Olympics, which she has yet to win) is to sweep the World Cup and world championships titles. That’s exactly what she did in 2015, but Meyers Taylor was third at worlds last season and missed half of the World Cup races due to that concussion.

She attributes recent success to a change in philosophy given the past two years.

“I’ve gotten a different perspective on bobsled,” Meyers Taylor said. “Every day I go out there, I’m just happy to be there and happy to be sliding. I’ve really taken the approach this year to focus on my driving and not worry about winning or losing races. Wins will come if I drive well.”

Her biggest challengers at worlds will come from her longtime top rivals, Canadian Kaillie Humphries and American Jamie Greubel Poser, who joined Meyers Taylor on the Sochi podium. Meyers Taylor led after the first three of four runs at the Olympics before falling behind Humphries in the finale.

The Olympics and worlds are the only events with a four-run format. Humphries leads this season’s World Cup standings through seven of eight races, but Meyers Taylor still believes she’s the woman to beat in Koenigssee.

“I’d be stupid if I didn’t say myself,” she said.

After Koenigssee, the world’s top sliders head to PyeongChang for training on the Olympic track plus the final World Cup of the season. Meyers Taylor, 32, expects to compete beyond 2018, “until the wheels fall off,” but also wants to start a family with her husband.

All but one of the push athletes on the national team were recruited to the sport by Meyers Taylor, making her perhaps the most valuable person in the entire American program.

“It’s called desperation,” she said. “I know that world championships and PyeongChang is going to come down to hundredths of a second. I needed every hundredth of a second I could from a brakeman standpoint. I make it a point to go out there and find my own athletes. If I want something to happen, I’ve got to make sure to do it myself. I can’t leave it up to somebody randomly finding bobsled.”

Jones, whom Meyers Taylor calls her “spark plug,” came over in 2015 after sprinting at Baylor University.

Meyers Taylor was talking with Baylor’s strength-and-conditioning and track-and-field coaches about potential bobsled converts when Jones’ name came up in an email. Jones’ diminutive size (5 feet, 130 pounds) made her valuable in bobsled, where sled weight maximums have been reduced in the last two years.

A look at the other disciplines at worlds:

Men’s Bobsled
German sleds have won 12 of the last 14 two- or four-man world titles on German tracks. The host nation has three drivers capable of taking gold this year — Francesco Friedrich, Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther.

In the two-man, Friedrich is favored to join Italian legend Eugenio Monti as the only drivers to win four straight world titles in any event. He has won four of the seven World Cup races this season after coming back to beat Lochner for his third straight world title last year.

In the four-man, Lochner has won three of the seven races this season, his first full-time on the World Cup circuit. At the race in Koenigssee last month, Lochner and Walther went one-two.

If anybody is to upset the Germans, it may be 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb. The American tied Friedrich for second at the World Cup two-man in Koenigssee last month — behind Lochner — and was fourth in the four-man. He also finished third and sixth in the races at the 2011 Worlds in Koenigssee. These are expected to be the final worlds for the 36-year-old Holcomb.

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Men’s Skeleton
Russian Aleksandr Tretiyakov and Latvian Martins Dukurs enter as co-favorites, having alternated World Cup wins in Koenigssee the last four years and put up strong seasons to date. Tretiyakov topped Dukurs for the Olympic title in Sochi, while Dukurs relegated Tretiyakov to silver at the last two worlds.

Tretiyakov was banned for nine days in December and January after being implicated in the McLaren report on Russian doping leading up to and during Sochi, but the sanction was lifted due to a lack of evidence.

South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, a 2016 World Championships and World Cup runner-up (sharing silver at the former with Tretiyakov), has said he will skip worlds to get more training on the 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang. That increases the medal chances for Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine, but the American placed seventh, 10th and 15th in his last three Koenigssee outings.

Women’s Skeleton
Despite its sliding-sports dominance, Germany has never won an Olympic skeleton title. That could change next year. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann have been the two best women’s sliders over the past two years. At ages 22 and 24, they have succeeded Anja Huber and Marion Thees in the German program.

Loelling leads the World Cup standings and won the race in Koenigssee last month. Last season, Hermann swept the World Cup and World Championships titles, plus won both races in Koenigssee.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain returned this season after a one-year break but has one podium finish in six World Cup starts. Likewise, the U.S. women have combined for one World Cup podium, a disappointment after Annie O’Shea finished fourth in last season’s World Cup standings.

MORE: Jamaica bobsled team crowdfunds for new coach

Date Time (ET) Event Network
Friday, 2/17 8:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 10 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 3 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 9:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 10:45 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 4 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 5 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3-4 Universal HD
Sunday, 2/19 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 9 a.m. Team Event Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 5 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday, 2/19 8:30 p.m. Team Event Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 7 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 9 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 11 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 4 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 2:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 4:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3-4 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 6 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Sunday 2/26 2:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 4:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 3:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday 2/26 4:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN

Kelly Slater has an Olympic decision to make

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Surfing icon Kelly Slater is in great position to qualify for his sport’s Olympic debut in 2020, but he’s undecided about making a required event appearance this summer to stay eligible.

The top two U.S. male surfers in this season’s World Surf League final standings are in line to qualify for the Olympics.

Slater, a 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, is ranked third among Americans through six of 11 events, but the No. 2, two-time world champion John John Florence, is likely out for the rest of the season after an ACL tear.

If Slater keeps up his current pace of results, he will pass Florence’s point total by the end of the season in December.

“It appears as though I have to make a decision [on the Olympics] sooner than that,” Slater said after being eliminated from South Africa’s J-Bay Open in ninth place on Wednesday. “I’ve really got to figure out all the factors around that and make a decision in the next few weeks.”

Slater’s concern is the ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan, in September, an event that top Olympic hopefuls on the WSL tour are required to attend, barring illness or injury.

“I think I have to surf that event, and if I don’t, it may disqualify me,” he said (the International Surfing Association, the sport’s governing body, later confirmed it would disqualify him). “But I’m not sure if I want to go to Japan and compete right now.”

The ISA Games take place in the week between the next two WSL events, the latter hosted by Slater’s Surf Ranch wave pool in California.

“I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Olympics right now, anyways,” said Slater, who last year said he was “50-50” on the Olympics when noting his differing thoughts on the qualification process and venue. “The point is, I’m not really focusing on it at this point. I’m trying to get myself back in the flow of the tour.”

Slater missed 13 tour stops between the 2017 and 2018 seasons after breaking a foot and having multiple surgeries.

He finished fifth, third, ninth, ninth and ninth in his five most recent events to get into Olympic qualifying position. He expected more after placing third in the two contests he entered healthy last season. Slater said he competed at J-Bay after straining his back “really bad” on Sunday, keeping him from surfing the three days before the contest.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, at 48, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, via the OlyMADMen.

“Right now in my head the focus is more on this tour than it is on the Olympics, but we’ll see,” he said. “I was starting this year with a lot of pressure on myself to try and make the Olympic team and think, maybe I’ll retire there next year and that will be the end for me. It put so much pressure on the start of the year for me that I didn’t feel like I could freely compete. It was putting too many things in my head. I needed to let that take a backseat and not worry about it. I’m just not really thinking about it a lot.”

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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China on brink of sweeping every gold medal at diving worlds

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Shi Tingmao joined Guo Jingjing as the only women to win three straight world titles in an individual diving event, giving China 11 gold medals in 11 events with two finals left in Gwangju, South Korea.

Shi, who swept the individual and synchronized springboard titles in Rio, claimed the 3m world title on Friday by 18.25 points with 391 total. Countrywoman Wang Han took silver, 5.8 points ahead of Australian Maddison Keeney.

Americans Sarah Bacon and Brooke Schultz missed the 12-woman final, placing 14th and 29th.

China, which has dominated the sport for two decades, is looking to sweep the golds at an Olympics or worlds for the second time after winning all 10 events in 2011. This year’s feat could be more impressive, should China win the last two events Saturday — a mixed-gender springboard and the men’s platform.

That’s because three mixed-gender events were added to the world program (but not the Olympic program) since 2011. And this year, China has not only won every gold but also taken every silver in the three individual Olympic program events thus far.

China is in strong position to go one-two in the men’s platform. Yang Jian and Yang Hao were nearly 70 points clear of the field in Friday’s semifinals.

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MORE: Diving Worlds TV Schedule