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Olympic medalist Matt Antoine retires from skeleton

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Matt Antoine, the 2014 Olympic skeleton bronze medalist, announced his retirement and move to coaching after winning the U.S. selection races for the upcoming World Cup season.

“Even though I know competing isn’t right for me anymore, I still feel like I have a lot to give to the sport,” the two-time Olympian said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “I want to be involved, even if it’s in a different capacity.”

Antoine’s career highlight came in Sochi, but it was tinged with sadness.

Antoine passed countryman John Daly for third place after the third run by .04. In the fourth and final run, Daly’s sled came out of the groove during the start, which sent him into a skid. Daly finished 15th, which all but guaranteed Antoine a medal.

“If I could pick anyone to beat me tonight or get a medal, I’d pick my own teammate Matt Antoine,” Daly said to NBC that night, choking back tears. “The first thing he thought about was consoling me. He said, ‘The only reason I got this medal is because of you. We’re only as good as we are because we had each other.’ He’s the most selfless person I know.”

Antoine joined 2002 Olympic gold medalist Jim Shea, his inspiration to switch from snowboarding, as the only U.S. men to earn skeleton medals since it was re-added to the program for the Salt Lake City Winter Games.

“It’s definitely the best moment of my life, without a doubt,” Antoine said that night at the Sanki Sliding Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Antoine, 33, said a year later that he was diagnosed with depression and that he nearly retired after Sochi.

“Everyone, at some point, needs help,” Antoine said then, according to The Associated Press. “At first I almost felt defeated that I had to seek medical and professional help. It felt like I had lost.

“I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Antoine bought a house in Phoenix, adopted Dixie, a golden retriever, and regained control of his life. He ended his Olympic career with an 11th-place finish in PyeongChang.

Antoine was the top U.S. slider on the World Cup the last five years, finishing between third and eighth in the standings, and the only American man to make a World Cup podium in the last eight years.

At his first skeleton tryout 15 years ago, Antoine was told he wasn’t good enough and sent home. He came back the next winter and made the development team.

“I knew after one run that it was something I loved and wanted to do,” he said.

Daly’s career is likely over after he came out of retirement and placed 16th in PyeongChang. Four-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender did not slide in World Cup selection races, and it’s unclear if she will compete this season.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Hayley Wickenheiser is 7th woman elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Hayley Wickenheiser
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Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female hockey player of all time who retired in 2017, will be the seventh female player in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The six-time Canadian Olympian (once in softball) was elected in her first year of eligibility. Wickenheiser is joined by Sergei Zubov, who earned gold at the 1992 Albertville Games with the Unified Team, two-time Czech Olympic medalist Václav Nedomanský and 1980s and ’90s NHLer Guy Carbonneau, among others.

The induction ceremony is Nov. 18 in Toronto.

Wickenheiser is the fifth Canadian female player elected after Angela James (2010), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Danielle Goyette (2017) and Jayna Hefford (2018). Americans Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela Ruggiero (2015) are also Hall of Famers.

Wickenheiser, now the Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant director of player development, earned four golds and one silver in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments. She played 23 years for the Canadian national team, earning seven world titles and being named Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006.

She also carried the Canadian flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and recited the Athletes’ Oath at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony. She was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in 2014.

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Breaking provisionally added for 2024 Olympics

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Breaking (don’t call it break dancing) was provisionally added to the Olympics for the 2024 Paris Games.

The IOC also announced Tuesday that skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were provisionally added to the 2024 Olympic program. Those three sports will debut at Tokyo 2020 but were not assured places on the Olympic program beyond next year.

“They contribute to making the program more gender balanced and more urban, and offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “The proposed sports are in line with these principles and enhance Paris 2024’s overall dynamic Games concept, which focuses on inclusivity, inspiring a new audience and hosting socially responsible Games.”

The IOC Executive Board will make the final decision on the Paris 2024 event program in December 2020, but no more sports can be proposed for inclusion. That means baseball and softball, which return to the Olympics next year, will not be on the 2024 Olympic program. Those sports can still be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Breaking debuted at the Youth Olympics last year, where the U.S. did not have any athletes. Sergei “Bumblebee” Chernyshev of Russia and Ramu Kawai of Japan took gold medals.

Breaking had never previously been up for a vote for Olympic inclusion, but the World DanceSport Federation is recognized by the IOC.

Teenagers, some of whom went by nicknames like Bad Matty, Senorita Carlota and KennyG, went head-to-head in dance battles at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last year. They performed on a mat atop an outdoor basketball court to a musical beat and emcees.

Judges determined winners using six criteria: creativity, personality, technique, variety, perfomativity and musicality.

“Breaking (also called b-boying or b-girling) is an urban dance style,” according to the Youth Olympics. “The urban dance style originated during the mid 1970s in the Bronx borough of New York City.”

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