100 days until Paralympics: 10 U.S. athletes to watch

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The Paralympics begin in 100 days, and the U.S. team is sure to include many medal contenders.

A look at 10 of them as the March 9 Opening Ceremony draws near … 

Andrew Kurka, Alpine Skiing
Led the U.S. at last season’s world championships with downhill gold, giant slalom silver and super-G bronze. Starting at age 8, won six Alaska state wrestling titles before an ATV accident at age 13 severely damaged three vertebrae in the middle of his spinal cord. Made the Sochi Paralympic team but did not compete after breaking his back in a training run crash. Also competes as a bodybuilder.

Alana Nichols, Alpine Skiing
The first U.S. woman to win gold at both the Summer and Winter Games announced in August the end of a three-year retirement from Alpine skiing. The 34-year-old had not raced since earning silver and bronze medals at her second Winter Games in Sochi.

Danelle Umstead, Alpine Skiing
Earned three combined bronze medals in 2010 and 2014 in the visually impaired classification with husband Rob as her guide. The 45-year-old has said PyeongChang will be her final Games. Every day she listens to an audio recording of sounds of the PyeongChang downhill course from start to finish (along with Rob’s commands) that she took at last year’s test event.

Aaron Pike, Biathlon/Cross-Country Skiing
Competed in the last three Paralympics — London 2012 and Rio 2016 in track and field and Sochi 2014 in biathlon and cross-country. Pike, 30, has never won a medal at the Paralympics or worlds in any sport but was fourth and fifth in two biathlon events at last season’s worlds.

Oksana Masters, Biathlon/Cross-Country Skiing
Masters has become one of the world’s most versatile athletes after being born in Ukraine with defects believed to be caused by the Chernobyl disaster and bouncing from orphanage to orphanage for seven years before being adopted by a single mother in New York. A Paralympic medalist in rowing (2012) and cross-country skiing (2014) but lacks gold. Masters also raced in road cycling at Rio 2016, taking fourth- and fifth-place finishes. She starred at last season’s Nordic worlds, bagging four gold medals and one bronze between biathlon and cross-country skiing. As is boyfriend Pike, trying to become the second American to earn an Olympic or Paralympic medal in biathlon (Andy Soule, 2010 Paralympics).

Steve Emt, Curling
Leader of the already-named U.S. Paralympic curling team of five athletes. The 46-year-old played briefly in two basketball games for the University of Connecticut in the 1993-94 season as a walk-on. Emt, paralyzed in a 1995 car accident, skipped the U.S. to a seventh-place finish at last season’s world championship.

Steve Cash, Hockey
Longtime goalie for the U.S. national team. Played all but 15 minutes of the U.S.’ five games in 2010 and didn’t allow a goal on 33 shots, including a penalty shot in the gold-medal game. Posted another three shutouts in 2014, including in the gold-medal game against Russia.

Declan Farmer, Hockey
The 20-year-old Princeton student broke U.S. records for goals (12) and points (18) at a single world championship last season. At 16, shared the U.S. leads with three goals and five points in Sochi.

Amy Purdy, Snowboarding
Instrumental in getting her sport added to the Paralympics for Sochi, then took bronze in snowboard cross at the Games. Spent eight days in the hospital last November with rhabdomyolysis. Returned to take bronze in banked slalom at worlds in February. Banked slalom will make its Paralympic debut in PyeongChang. Also was runner-up on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014 and performed at the Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony.

Evan Strong, Snowboarding
Strong, who was raised in Maui, led a U.S. snowboard cross podium sweep in Sochi. He then took silver at last season’s worlds. Originally a skateboarder who got his first sponsor at age 13. Switched to snowboarding after a drunk driver struck him head-on on his motorcycle at age 17, requiring his left leg to be partially amputated.

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MORE: Paralympics decision on Russia expected by end of year

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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