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Finnish ski jump icon Matti Nykanen dies at 55

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HELSINKI (AP) — Matti Nykanen, the four-time Olympic ski jumping champion whose personal life was affected by alcohol problems, has died. He was 55.

Nykanen, who also won seven World Championship gold medals, died Sunday, the International Ski Federation (FIS) said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Nykanen became an icon of sport in Finland. He was 18 when he won his first competition in the storied Four Hills tournament, yet with boyish looks seemed even younger.

He won the gold medal in the large hill event at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and took all three gold medals four years later in Calgary, winning the normal hill and large hill as well as the team competitions.

“He is a legend of his sport,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said in a statement on Monday. “Our thoughts are with his family and his friends.”

Nykanen retired in 1991 after winning a then-record 46 individual World Cup events.

“Nykanen has been one of our great ambassadors for the sport of skiing in general, with all the medals and cups he won,” FIS President Gian Franco Kasper said at the Alpine skiing world championships in Are, Sweden.

Nykanen’s success on skis was balanced by a troubled personal life.

He was twice sentenced to prison sentences for violent behavior, including a stabbing incident in 2004 and an aggravated assault on his wife in 2009. He also began a career as a singer after his retirement.

Several biographies have been written about Nykanen, and Finnish filmmakers produced a movie, “Matti: Hell is For Heroes,” that drew record audiences after its release in 2006.

“A legend in so many ways,” a former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, wrote on Twitter . “He will always have a special place in the hearts of winter sports fans around the world.”

Breanna Stewart to miss entire WNBA season with Achilles injury

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Breanna Stewart, the world’s top female basketball player and one of the most dominant athletes of 2018, is expected to miss the entire upcoming WNBA season after rupturing an Achilles playing in Europe on Sunday, according to the Seattle Storm.

“The situation is still a shock to me,” was posted on Stewart’s social media. “I’m feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”

Stewart, 24, skyrocketed in this Olympic cycle.

The Storm’s franchise player went from playing the second-fewest minutes on the 2016 Olympic team as its youngest player to leading the U.S. per game in points (16.3) and minutes (27) at the 2018 World Championship tournament.

Stewart earned MVP honors at worlds, matching her WNBA season and Finals honors. She became the first player to earn all three MVPs in one year.

Stewart is still expected to be in play for the 2020 Olympic team, given the Storm expect her to make a full recovery by the start of the following WNBA season next spring.

Tamika Catchings made the 2008 Olympic team after tearing her right Achilles in September 2007.

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Caster Semenya leads Olympians in Time 100; streak hits 16 years

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An Olympian has made the Time 100 Most Influential list every year since its annual inception in 2004. South African runner Caster Semenya, soccer players Alex Morgan and Mo Salah and LeBron James kept the streak going in 2019.

It’s the fourth appearance for James (2005, 2013, 2017), extending his record for an athlete, and the first for Semenya, Morgan and Salah. Semenya made it in the “icons” category, while the other three are “titans.”

Two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion Edwin Moses penned an essay about the two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya, who is fighting a legal battle with the IAAF over a potential rule change limiting women’s testosterone levels in her events. If the rule goes into effect, Semenya’s dominance (three years undefeated at 800m) is expected to vanish.

“Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications,” Moses wrote. “Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

Here are Olympians and Paralympians on past Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who competed in the Games before being listed:

2018 — Kevin Durant, Roger Federer, Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon
2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey CheekSteve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

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