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Janne Ahonen, ski jumping great, retires for third time

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Janne Ahonen, the greatest ski jumper without an individual Olympic medal, has retired for a third time at age 41, according to Finland newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.

The Finnish legend earned two Olympic silver medals in team events in 2002 and 2006, plus individual world titles in 1997 and 2005. He also amassed 36 World Cup wins and 108 podiums between 1992 and 2018, plus a record five titles at the prestigious Four Hills Tournament.

“I will never quit ski jumping — I will continue to jump when I feel like it — but I can confirm that I will not take part in any competitions anymore” Ahonen said, according to an International Ski Federation translation of the report.

Individually, Ahonen’s best Olympic finish was fourth — on the normal hill in 1998, 2002 and 2010.

Ahonen retired in 2008 and 2011, only to come back for his fifth and sixth Winter Olympics. He competed in a seventh Olympics in PyeongChang with finishes of 27th and 40th, plus eighth in the team event.

Only fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan has competed in more Winter Games than Ahonen.

Ahonen entered the sport at the tail end of Finland’s dominance. Now, Finland is an afterthought. No Olympic or world medals in a decade and just one men’s World Cup podium in the last seven years.

Ahonen wrote a tell-all autobiography during his first retirement that sold out in first printing. He detailed the kind of severe lack of eating that has long been associated with the sport.

During the summer, Ahonen would sometimes consume no more than 200 calories a day, eating cereal with a little nonfat yogurt for breakfast, nothing for lunch and another small portion of cereal for dinner.

He was also known for drag racing in offseasons.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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MORE: Norwegian Alpine great ’50-50′ on race return

Kobe Bryant embraced the Olympics, on and off the court

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Kobe Bryant developed a special relationship with Team USA, international basketball and the Olympic Games themselves.

Bryant was among those who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Grief spread worldwide, showing the impact he had across international sport. Images of Bryant meeting Olympians from gymnastics, swimming, track and field, even Alpine skiing, some from him attending their competitions, dotted social media.

Bryant earned gold medals as a leader of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He said before debuting at the Games that he valued a gold medal above an NBA championship.

In 2008, he helped spur the Redeem Team to gold in Beijing. He sat down with NBC Sports’ Cris Collinsworth for an interview, describing what it meant to him to receive the USA jersey for the first time.

“I had goosebumps, and I actually just looked at it for a while,” said Bryant, who put off surgery on a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger to play in 2008. “I just held it there, and I laid it across my bed. I just stared at it for a few minutes. Just because, as a kid growing up, this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.”

Bryant’s first Olympic game came in a special environment — in Beijing against China.

“When I look up in the crowd, and I see all the USA flags waving and people chanting USA, it gives you goosebumps,” he said. “When I heard the national anthem, I teared up a little bit, and I had to gather myself.”

Bryant stayed close to the Olympic Movement in retirement.

He attended the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for women’s gymnastics, meeting the team members. He appeared at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards, helping raise money for the national governing body. He was the final voice in the Los Angeles Olympic bid presentation to the IOC two years ago.

Bryant’s last words in that video, before the IOC later awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles: “To have the Olympics here, and to have so many different cultures represented, would be a beautiful story to tell.”

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.