U.S. keeps dominating Paralympics with 7 more snowboard medals

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Make it a leading 30 medals for the U.S. Paralympic team. Second place? The Neutral Paralympic Athletes from Russia with 20 medals.

The Americans, who placed third at Sochi 2014 with 18 medals (just two golds) and last topped a medal standings at a Winter Games it didn’t host in 1992, go into the last two days of competition ahead of the field in PyeongChang.

Thank the snowboard team’s performance Friday. The U.S. bagged seven of the 15 banked slalom medals awarded, including three of the five golds (first-time Paralympians Brenna HuckabyMike Minor and Noah Elliott).

Nordic skiers Oksana Masters and Dan Cnossen added their fourth and fifth medals of the Games, respectively, with silvers in biathlon.

The U.S. can see the finish line through 64 of 80 medal events in South Korea.

The team’s 30 total medals mark its most since 43 in Salt Lake City 2002 (when there were 92 events). The 11 golds are its most since 13 in Nagano 1998 (when there were 122 events).

It’s a big swing from four years ago, when Russia broke the Winter Paralympic record with 80 medals plus 30 golds, more than three times the runner-up nation in each standings.

Russia topped the Winter Paralympic medal standings at the last three editions but trails in PyeongChang with a depleted roster of 43 neutral athletes due to the nation’s sanctions for its poor anti-doping record. The U.S. has a leading 81 athletes.

A closer look at the three U.S. gold medalists on Friday: Elliott went one-two with U.S. flag bearer Mike Schultz, four days after Schultz won gold with Elliott taking bronze in snowboard cross in their classification.

Elliott, then 16, was motivated to start snowboarding after watching the 2014 Paralympics from his hospital bed while undergoing treatment for bone cancer. His left leg was later amputated above the knee.

“Now I am out here ripping it with the same guys I saw on TV,” Elliott said Friday.

Minor, a 27-year-old born without a right forearm, added gold to his snowboard cross bronze, 27 months after making his international debut in the sport (which he also won).

Huckaby, a 22-year-old with a 20-month-old daughter, Lilah, made it two golds in two events in her Paralympic debut. Huckaby, like Elliott, had a leg amputated due to bone cancer.

Brittani Coury and Evan Strong (silvers) and Amy Purdy (bronze) rounded out the U.S. medals Friday.

The snowboarders’ competition in PyeongChang is finished. What’s next?

“I’m going to go get baby snuggles,” Huckaby said.

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MORE: PyeongChang Paralympics TV, streaming schedule

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan
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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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