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Bode Miller, after tragic year, heads to Montana’s mountains

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Retired U.S. downhill skier Bode Miller decided a change of scenery was needed after a tumultuous year in which he experienced the tragic death of his toddler daughter, the birth of a son and now the expected arrival of twin boys this fall.

So the 41-year-old six-time Olympic medalist and his pregnant wife, Morgan, headed to the Montana mountains with four children in tow to settle into a new home at Big Sky Resort north of Yellowstone National Park. There, he plans to give his California-raised children a modernized taste of his childhood in northern New Hampshire, where he and his hippie parents lived in a home without running water or electricity.

“After losing Emmie, we definitely reflected on how we were raising our kids,” Miller told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “We felt like there was enough missing from our experience and their upbringing in Southern California that we needed to look at other options.”

Emeline Miller drowned in a backyard pool in June 2018 after she slipped out the back door of a neighbor’s house that the 19-month-old girl and her mother were visiting outside Los Angeles. Four months later, as Bode and Morgan Miller dealt with their grief, their son Easton was born and joined the family that already included another girl and two boys.

Miller said he spent time after his daughter’s death questioning what he could have done differently, and then he sharpened his focus on his other children. Drawing from his childhood in Franconia, N.H., he concluded they needed to move closer to nature and live in a small community to bond as a family and instill values like independence, self-reliance and grit.

With the twins due in November, Miller decided the time was right.

“When you get a true sense of the possible shortness of life — nobody knows what’s around the corner — it’s not something you want to put off,” Miller said. “It changed a bit our intensity of how we deal with our time and our family and our priorities.”

Morgan Miller has said the family keeps Emeline with them by sharing memories and imagining having her with them, and that she wants to make sure their children are getting the best of their parents and out of life.

“It’s a battle every day to get up out of bed,” she told TODAY in August. “But to see them and see the joy through their eyes and to live vicariously through all of their daily experiences makes each day just a little bit easier.”

The family plans to split their time throughout the year between their new home in Montana and their current home in Coto de Caza, an upscale Los Angeles suburb.

In Montana, Bode Miller will have a new role as the face of the sprawling Big Sky Resort, in the shadow of the 11,166-foot Lone Peak about 25 miles north of Yellowstone. Communities scattered across the slopes include the Yellowstone Club, an exclusive resort for the ultra-rich. The Millers will live in nearby Spanish Peaks, another upscale development.

Bode Miller will act as Big Sky’s brand ambassador, working on its ski programming, running camps and helping develop the booming ski area.

He and Morgan, a former professional volleyball player, also plan to continue their campaign to educate parents about water safety for young children.

“It was a horrible experience, losing a child,” Bode Miller said. “The loss was brutal, but we have an amazing family, and we have a unique ability to really live a spectacular life and move forward, and also to show each other and show the rest of the world what that healing process can look like.”

Bode Miller is the most decorated male skier in U.S. history with 33 World Cup wins, two overall titles, four world championships and six Olympic medals. He built a reputation as a brash risk-taker who enthralled audiences that would tune in just to see whether he’d win or crash trying.

His 19-year professional skiing career ended with a crash in the 2015 World Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, that severed his hamstring tendon. He formally retired in 2017.

Now, nearly four years after that race, his time on the slopes is spent mostly with his 11-year-old daughter, his 6-year-old son and his 4-year-old son, who is just learning how to ski. Bode Miller said he enjoys skiing as much as ever, but he harbors no thoughts of a comeback.

“I’m pretty glad to have it behind me, honestly,” he said. “I feel like it was a great phase, but I’m definitely past it and don’t really have any desire to do it again or look back on it.”

Bode Miller said he’ll always be involved in downhill skiing because he loves the sport and the people in it, but his long-term plans are unclear.

He’s not closing the door on broadcasting but acknowledged he’d have to do it more regularly to get better.

“It can’t be once every four years for the Olympics,” he said. “That didn’t make sense to me. I don’t think I would ever really improve doing it that way.”

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Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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