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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

Geraint Thomas attacks, takes Tour de France lead ahead of Chris Froome

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British Olympic track cycling champion Geraint Thomas grabbed the Tour de France lead, attacking with three and a half miles to win a summit finish on Stage 11 on Wednesday.

Thomas now leads a Team Sky one-two in the overall standings, 85 seconds ahead of four-time Tour winner Chris Froome, as the three-week Grand Tour passed the halfway mark.

“Froome is the [Team Sky] leader here, so there’s no pressure on me,” Thomas said Tuesday, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It’s a bonus for me to be up there, and hopefully I can be there for as long as possible.”

The Tour continues Thursday with stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

The 109-mile stage features three beyond-category climbs — Col de la Madeleine, Croix-de-Fer and the iconic Alpe d’Huez finish after 21 switchbacks to close out the Tour’s three days in the Alps. The overall standings are sure to change.

Greg Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, went into stage 11 with a 2:22 lead, which he had tripled on the first mountain day Tuesday.

But Van Avermaet, who predicted he would lose the yellow jersey before stages Tuesday and Wednesday, cracked on the second of three major climbs Wednesday. He finished in a group 22 minutes after Thomas.

Van Avermaet is a super one-day racer but not a strong climber.

Thomas dons the yellow jersey for a second straight Tour. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic track cycling gold medalist won the opening stage in 2017 and wore the maillot jaune four days before Froome took over en route to his fourth title in Paris.

There was talk before and during this year’s Tour that Thomas could challenge Froome as Sky’s team leader, even though Froome has won the last three Grand Tours and is going for record-tying fifth Tour de France crown.

But Thomas and Sky have played that down.

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U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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