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Marco Odermatt, Swiss phenom, stamps arrival with first World Cup win

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Marco Odermatt’s fellow racers watched from the top as he went too straight around one turn and nearly crossed his skis before another.

They marveled at his ability to recover. They admired his capacity to stay composed.

Above all: They know this 22-year-old from Switzerland will be a factor for quite some time.

Odermatt went on a wild ride to finish the technical Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 10.90 seconds Friday to earn his first World Cup victory. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway was second, 0.10 seconds behind, and Austrian Matthias Mayer took third.

“It was a perfect day for me, with a nearly perfect run,” said Odermatt, the youngest man to win a World Cup speed event since 1994. “I was really on the edge. I was lucky.”

Or skillful.

He nearly went out in two spots only to recover and keep on cruising to the finish line.

In doing so, Odermatt snapped Austria’s string of four straight World Cup super-G wins at Beaver Creek. He needed a run just like this, too — barely on the verge of control around several turns.

“It’s whoever is willing to take the most risk and then pull it off,” said Travis Ganong, who finished sixth for the top finish among the Americans. “Odermatt, he took way too much risk and somehow it worked out. That’s a one out of 100 run.”

Odermatt was the second racer to take the hill, which can be a benefit or a detriment. On the positive side, the snow is still fresh. On the down side, there’s no course report.

The consensus was that going that early and making that sort of mistake was a benefit for Odermatt, because he was indeed able to recover on a cleaner track.

The one thing he didn’t do was panic.

“I just didn’t want to break there and so I went full speed there and lost not so much speed,” said Odermatt, who was sure they were celebrating in his hometown of Buochs, Switzerland. “So it was possible to do a good run.”

His run earned the admiration of Kilde, who was among those watching Odermatt from the top of the course. Then again, Kilde’s been singing the praises of this new kid on the scene for a while.

This was Odermatt’s third career World Cup podium and first in speed. He took second and third places in giant slalom competitions last season. Odermatt also won four of five individual titles at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Switzerland.

“It looks so easy when he skis,” Kilde said. “Today, he really charged. I knew that was going to be really fast.”

Like Odermatt, Kilde made a tiny mistake. But he still turned in a fast time as the No. 17 racer.

“I knew,” Kilde said, “I had to charge myself …”

“And he did,” Odermatt playfully interrupted.

“… And I did,” said Kilde, who finished in a three-way tie for third place last season during the super-G at Beaver Creek. “One mistake here, and he has one mistake and together we were one and two. He’s for sure the guy for the future. He’s going to be the guy for Beaver Creek for the next 20 years.”

Mayer had a strong run despite a sore hip. He crashed in a giant slalom training session Tuesday and wasn’t sure how the hip would respond. Mayer won the opening super-G race of the season in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend.

“My hip is better,” Mayer said. “I’m pretty happy about third place.”

For German racer Thomas Dressen, this was about getting comfortable on the course again and not so much his place (27th). He crashed a year ago in Beaver Creek and tore the ACL in his right knee. Dressen, who won the downhill in Lake Louise last weekend, feels even more comfortable ahead of Saturday’s downhill.

“It’s not the course’s fault that I crashed. It’s mine,” Dressen said. “If you’re honest with yourself, you can learn from your mistakes. I like the course a lot. It’s one of my favorites.”

There were several “DNFs” — did not finish — on the technical course, including the first racer of the day, Adrien Theaux of France.

“Today was especially challenging with the set,” Ganong said. “Really high speeds into some big fall-away turns, super bumpy. … It was fun.”

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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