Breezy Johnson, after skiing was taken away from her, scores back-to-back podiums

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American downhiller Breezy Johnson realized repeatedly the last few years that, at any moment, ski racing could be taken away from her. Crashes led to significant leg injuries in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

But Johnson, a hardened 24, is cherishing the sport at the moment.

She scored her first World Cup podium in a downhill in Val d’Isere, France on Friday, She repeated the third-place finish in another downhill in the French Alpine resort Saturday, becoming the first U.S. woman other than Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn to make consecutive World Cup podiums in eight years.

“After injury, I’m just trying to seize every moment,” Johnson said.

The last two days, the only faster skiers were Swiss Corinne Suter, the reigning World Cup downhill season champion, and Italian Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill gold medalist. Suter and Goggia traded first- and second-place finishes, consolidating their medal favorite statuses for the world championships in February and the Olympics in 14 months.

Full results from Saturday’s race are here. The women race a super-G in Val d’Isere on Sunday. TV and stream information is here.

Johnson believes she can consistently challenge the world’s best.

“These podiums have been coming on for a while,” said Johnson, who was named after her grandmother’s neighbor, learned to ski down the family driveway and was seventh in the PyeongChang Olympic downhill as the youngest U.S. speed racer. “I definitely had the goal to win a World Cup, go for a world championship medal this year. I think this is the beginning.”

Johnson made her first international splash at age 20, placing 11th in a 2016 World Cup downhill in Lake Louise. She notched her first top-10 the next month and qualified for that season’s World Cup Finals, where she somersaulted in the first of three serious crashes that sidelined her with leg injuries. Johnson was more than one year younger than anybody else in the top 30 of the downhill standings.

She came back from a tibial plateau fracture to make her first Olympic team at age 22 in 2018. Johnson was the youngest woman to finish in the top 10 in the downhill in PyeongChang, fueling hope she could succeed Lindsey Vonn as the premier American speed racer (Shiffrin can start — and win — all disciplines but focuses more on slalom and giant slalom).

Johnson hoped that her first World Cup podium would be shared with Vonn, but the legend retired in 2019 after a litany of injuries.

Johnson tore her right ACL in a September 2018 training crash and missed the entire season. She then tore her left PCL and MCL in a June 2019 giant slalom training fall. She showed Vonn-like resilience in returning last season — on about five days of training — and grabbing a pair of fifth-place World Cup finishes.

Preseason training was curtailed this year for many, especially Americans, due to the coronavirus pandemic closing ski resorts and limiting travel in Europe.

No matter, Johnson is one of five different U.S. men or women to make a World Cup podium less than two months into the five-month campaign. Two Americans made a podium all of last season. One did so the year before that.

“These are the moments we have all dreamed about!” was posted on Johnson’s Instagram after Friday’s result. “The ones that have been swirling around in our minds for so long that we almost can’t believe it when they happen in real life! Someone pinch me.”

On Saturday, she appeared a seasoned victor, looking into the finish-area camera to wish her mom a happy birthday.

“I was definitely happy to just be in the finish in one piece,” Johnson said of the bumpy run with challenging sections of flat light. “I maybe gave her a heart attack for her birthday.”

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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