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Vincent Kriechmayr picks up World Cup downhill win

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“Mammas don’t let your babies grow up to be downhillers” was the sentiment offered by NBC Sports’ Steve Porino as the most experienced alpine racers attacked the downhill course in Wengen on Saturday.

Skiers like reigning Olympic downhill champion, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, in his 18th World Cup season, continue to find ways to will their bodies past pain to compete for the podium. After taking 10 days off to rest an ailing right knee, Svindal, skiing third, looked fresh and took the early lead.

Two skiers later, the reigning world champ and current World Cup points leader in downhill, Swiss skier Beat Feuz, thrilled his home-country crowd by bumping Svindal off the top spot by .38 hundredths of a second.    

But it was Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr who ultimately mastered the treacherous hairpin turns and narrow snowy chutes in Wengen to win his second-career World Cup downhill race. Kriechmayer was in a dead heat with Feuz as he neared the finish, but commanded his skies into two near-perfect turns to claim the lead by .14 hundredths of a second.

Rounding out the podium behind Kriechmayr and Feuz was Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in third. Full results are here.

Even the best downhillers in the world struggled to reach the finish line in Wengen. Austria’s Max Franz, second in the downhill World Cup point standings, crashed in his run, as did his countryman two-time Olympic champion Matthias Mayer.

The U.S.’ Steve Nyman gave spectators and fellow skiers a scare when he lost control during his run, going airborne for a moment, before coming to a stop in the middle of the course. Luckily, Nyman avoided becoming entangled in the protective fencing and was able to ski away seemingly unscathed.

Bryce Bennett continued to be the bright spot for the U.S. downhill skiers, finishing his day in fifth, .63 hundredths of a second behind Kriechmayr. Bennett has flirted with downhill podiums as of late, finishing fourth in two previous races this season.

Tomorrow the men’s World Cup wraps up its weekend in Switzerland with the slalom. Stream the first run live on OlympicChannel.com or on NBC Sports Gold starting at 4:15 a.m. EST. Watch the second and deciding run on TV on Olympic Channel or stream it on NBC Sports Gold at 7:15 a.m. ET.

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Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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