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Norway’s crazy curling pants tapped for third Olympics after close call

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The Pants are on the path to PyeongChang.

Norway’s curling federation named Thomas Ulsrud‘s rink — known for its flashy pants at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games — as its Olympic curling team.

That’s provided Ulsrud and Co. finish in the top four at the European Championships in November.

That shouldn’t be a problem. Ulsrud earned medals at the last 10 European Championships, including making the final eight times.

If Ulsrud’s rink finishes between fifth and seventh place at Europeans, it will have a playoff with the other top Norwegian team for its Olympic spot.

The Olympic announcement was a relief for Ulsrud. The other top Norwegian team — skipped by Steffen Walstad, who is 17 years younger than Ulsrud — played well of late and is immediately behind Ulsrud in worldcurl.com’s standings.

“It must have been a really tuff [sic] choice for our federation as we now for the first time in about 10 years have 2 top teams in Norway,” was posted on Team Ulsrud’s Facebook page.

Earlier this month, Walstad’s rink became the first Norwegian team to make the final of a Grand Slam (one of seven major annual tournaments played in Canada).

What’s more, Walstad beat Ulsrud at last season’s Norwegian Championships, earning the nation’s berth at the world championship.

Walstad struggled at worlds, going 5-6, which marked Norway’s worst record at an Olympics or worlds since 2007. Ulsrud had won world gold in 2014 and silver in 2015.

At the Olympics, Ulsrud was fifth in Sochi and earned silver in Vancouver, where The Pants first gained fame.

From NBC Olympic Research:

Shortly before the Vancouver Games, Norway’s national Olympic committee outfitted Thomas Ulsrud’s squad with rather dull, all-black uniforms for the tournament. Ulsrud’s teammate Christoffer Svae, an enterprising 31-year-old from Oslo, thought the team should be more patriotic and purchased several checkered pairs of pants with the Norwegian colors of red, blue and white. As soon as the Norwegians took the ice for their first game, the pants were an immediate sensation. Most major international news agencies interviewed the team and a Facebook fan page developed nearly half a million followers.

Ulsrud turns 46 next month. In PyeongChang, he will be older than any previous Olympic medal-winning skip.

The Olympic favorite is whichever team emerges from Canada’s Trials or Sweden’s Niklas Edin‘s rink. Three different men skipped Canada to gold at the last three Olympics. Two different men skipped Canada to the last two world titles.

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MORE: U.S. qualifies for Olympics in every curling event

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

MORE: Katie Ledecky on her new suit, challenges for Tokyo 2020

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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