Bobsled crashes, makes final 8 turns upside down (video)

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Belgian bobsledders An Vannieuwehnhuyse and Sophie Vercruyssen spent nearly 30 seconds sliding upside down, making the final eight turns on the track, after crashing in a World Cup race in Whistler, B.C., on Friday night.

They finally slowed to a stop after crossing the finish line nine seconds behind the fastest sleds in the first of two runs.

The athletes quickly emerged from the sled and gingerly walked off the track on their own power. They did not qualify for a second run later that night.

The Whistler track has been known for its difficulty since it opened one year before hosting the 2010 Olympics.

In the first four-man training session in 2009, four of eight sleds crashed on curve 13, which led the late Steven Holcomb to nickname it “Curve 50/50.”

VIDEO: Bobsledder ejected in World Cup crash

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The Story of Holcy's 50/50 It was a nasty afternoon of sliding in January 2009, just over a year until the 2010 #Olympics. Tour had been on the track in #Whistler for a few days when eight sleds decided to move from 2-man to 4-man. It was the first day international 4-man sleds would go off the top of the track. Four sleds made it through curve 13 and four sleds did not… they met the entrance of curve 14 on their heads, definitely worse for wear. That night Steve Holcomb, @justinbolsen, @ctomasevicz & I headed down to the garage to prep our backup sled for our first 4-man training the next day. We didn’t dare take the Night Train down the track, with a 50% chance of making it through. So we started to joke as we prepped our lightening bolt sled, that there was a fifty percent chance people were making it down on all four runners. That quickly turned into Holcy saying there was a fifty/fifty chance and we joked about it the rest of sled prep – which was trying to fit in the sled properly (since it wasn’t our normal sled), getting runners on, and everything else ready. We headed up to the rooms, still laughing about it and ordered delivery sushi. After we were done eating, Justin, Holcy, Emily Azevedo & I decided we were going to rip open the bag and make a sign for Holcy to duct tape to the roof on his track walk the next morning; if we were going to go down the track, we might as well have some fun with it, we thought! Within days, when the track announcer called the Germans “sliding 50/50”, the four of us couldn’t stop giggling! From then on, we always found it amazing that the name of the curve stuck and even on the @nbcolympics broadcast, curve 13 was forever enshrined as Curve 50/50. Today I learned that corner was renamed. For now and forever it'll be called “Holcy’s 50/50” – a loving memory of our fallen teammate, who never did crash our 4-man in that corner. A little more than a year after ripping that sushi bag, Holcy, Olsen, Curt, and I crossed the line to make history. I wish I could be in Whistler this weekend to hear the call of sliding "Holcy's 50/50"… Miss you my friend and brother. @ibsfsliding @teamusa @martinhaven @elanameyerstaylor

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”