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Hannah Teter, after just missing Olympics, gets back on snowboard

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NEW YORK — It just might be the hardest U.S. Winter Olympic team to make.

A year ago, a bevy of accomplished riders went out for the U.S. Olympic women’s halfpipe team of four. Chloe Kim, the teenager expanding the sport with back-to-back 1080s, was all but a lock. Kelly Clark, perhaps the greatest snowboarder of all time, made it, too. As did Arielle Gold, a world champion at age 16. And Maddie Mastro, 17 and the most improved rider of the Olympic cycle.

That meant an Olympic gold and silver medalist, 31-year-old Hannah Teter, had to watch the Winter Games on TV for the first time since 2002.

“Last year was so heavy,” said Teter, who finished fifth in the U.S. Olympic qualifying standings, one spot ahead of fellow multiple Olympian and the 2017 X Games winner, Elena Hight. “I was bummed, but not really, because all my friends were going, and I knew they were going to win.”

Kim took gold in PyeongChang as part of arguably the greatest season in halfpipe history, becoming the first rider of either gender to sweep X Games, the Olympics and the Burton U.S. Open in one winter. Gold added a bronze. Clark was fourth in perhaps her last Olympics. Mastro qualified fourth into the final and ended up 12th.

Teter said she didn’t ride much in the summer, taking one of the longest breaks from snowboarding of a 15-year career of top-level competition. She is on the entry list for next week’s Dew Tour but said on Monday that she was still deciding whether to compete.

That’s in part because Teter is devoting more time to other pursuits. She was in Manhattan this week for a Muscular Dystrophy Association gala and to promote the Special Olympics World Games in March in Abu Dhabi.

Many Olympic legends have been involved in the World Games, from Michael Phelps to Nadia Comaneci to Michelle Kwan to Apolo Ohno. Teter said she attended the last three. In fact, she helped bridge the Special Olympics and the X Games, introducing a dual slalom event in 2015 that pairs one Special Olympics athlete with one X Games athlete.

Last season, Teter skipped the traditional X Games halfpipe (after missing the Olympic team and falling hard in training) but did compete in the dual slalom with partner Daina Shilts. This season, she is committing to the dual slalom but iffy on halfpipe.

Teter could not remember the last time she missed the X Games halfpipe in a non-Olympic year. Her X Games biography says 2001, days after she turned 14.

Which leads one to wonder if Teter is interested in another Olympic run. In 2022, she will turn 35, older than any previous U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider. She says it’s possible.

“Especially if I just stay in the mix,” said Teter, who last won a top-level contest in January 2009 and must work to keep up with the increasing flips and spins brought by Kim, Gold and Mastro. “It’s [intimidating] because, oh, I’ve got to do that to win? S—. But it is motivating, too, because it’s possible. They’re doing it. They’re landing it. It shows it can be done.”

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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

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