Bryan Fletcher, cancer survivor, wins U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials

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Bryan Fletcher, diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, won the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials to lock up his second Winter Games berth on Saturday.

Fletcher, 31, overcame an 84-second deficit after the ski jump to reach the 10km cross-country ski finish line first in Park City, Utah.

Brothers Adam and Ben Loomis were second and third, followed by Fletcher’s younger brother, Taylor, according to reports from Park City.

As a boy, Bryan Fletcher underwent chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than four years, surviving a stroke in the process, before going into remission at age 8.

He entered kindergarten with a bald head but made light of his condition by painting it green and wearing a matching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outfit.

Fletcher, who took up skiing during chemo, was a ski jumping forerunner at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He just missed the 2010 Olympic team due to an ankle injury from falling down stairs. Taylor took the last spot instead.

Fletcher made his Olympic debut in Sochi, finishing 22nd and 26th in two individual events and sixth in the team event.

Ben Loomis, a 19-year-old and 2016 Youth Olympic silver medalist, led Saturday’s trials after the ski jump portion. Bryan and Taylor Fletcher were fifth and sixth going into the 10km.

This Olympic Nordic combined team will not have any of the men who won the U.S.’ four medals in the sport, all in 2010.

Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick, who competed in the last five Olympics, retired after Sochi.

Without them, U.S. skiers haven’t performed well enough internationally yet to earn an Olympic berth in the Nordic combined team event.

The U.S. currently has two spots available in the individual events in PyeongChang but can get up to five spots (and a team event berth) by the qualifying deadline in three weeks.

The team event has been in the Olympics since 1988, with the U.S. taking part each time.

The U.S. Olympic ski jumping trials are Sunday, airing on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 1 p.m. ET.

The male and female winners will clinch Olympic berths, with the rest of the team announced in January.

The favorites include Sochi Olympian Sarah Hendrickson and Nita Englund, plus Will Rhoads and Kevin Bickner, a pair leading a new generation of U.S. male jumpers.

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MORE: Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
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Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule

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Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

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Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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