Henrik Kristoffersen rallies for one of most emotional wins of his career

Henrik Kristoffersen
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MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (AP) — An explosive second run earned Henrik Kristoffersen “one of the most emotional wins” of his career Tuesday, leading Sebastian Foss-Solevaag for a Norwegian 1-2 finish at a men’s World Cup night slalom on Tuesday.

In the traditional last race before Christmas on the floodlit Canalone Miramonti course, Kristoffersen was 1.25 seconds behind in 12th after the first run but charged ahead in the second to beat first-run leader Foss-Solevaag by 0.33.

Alex Vinatzer of Italy was 0.34 behind in third, edging Austria’s Manuel Feller by one-hundredth.

His frenetic run kickstarted the season for Kristoffersen, who won the World Cup titles in slalom and GS last year but struggled in his key disciplines in the new campaign.

“The last three weeks have been tough, for sure. I think I have never been this emotional after a win before,” Kristoffersen said. “This is one of the most emotional wins in my career.”

He finished fifth in the season-opening GS in Soelden in October and was runner-up in a parallel event in Lech a few weeks later, but “since then it has been terrible.”

“And skiing is my life. I have a family and skiing — and that’s my life. I don’t have anything else,” Kristoffersen said. “When that goes tough, it’s challenging, especially when you won so many races before and everyone starts thinking: Is he finished now? What’s wrong? It’s really emotional, even with one good run, to win a race.”

Without changes to the setup of his equipment, Kristoffersen looked a different racer in the final run.

“It’s all in my head,” he said. “In the first run, I skied technically good, but too round and too calm. It was just slow. In the second run I could only attack.”

Kristoffersen was also helped by many racers who were faster in the opening run before struggling on the relatively soft snow surface due to the mild temperatures in the Italian Alps.

Kristoffersen’s first triumph of the season marked his 18th World Cup slalom win and 22nd overall.

The World Cup slalom champion is now in outright third place on the Norwegian winners’ list, overtaking Kjetil André Aamodt and trailing only Aksel Lund Svindal, who had 36 wins before retiring in 2019, and Kjetil Jansrud, with 23.

The result meant that Norway has won three of the five races held in the Italian Alps over the past five days, after Aleksander Aamodt Kilde triumphed in two speed races in Val Gardena on Friday and Saturday.

Chasing his first career win, Foss-Solevaag took a big lead of four-tenths in the opening run, with a flawless run in the steep middle section, before carrying his speed through the finish.

Despite losing his lead, he said that “all in all, I’m happy with my performance today.”

It was his third career podium, and first since March 2016.

Foss-Solevaag is among the most consistent performers in the slalom discipline. He finished in the top 10 in eight of the nine slaloms last seasons, more than any other competitor.

Alexis Pinturault extended his lead in the overall standings to 65 points over Kilde, who doesn’t compete in slaloms.

Pinturault was part of a three-way tie for sixth place, with Germany’s Linus Strasser and his French teammate, two-time world champion Jean-Baptiste Grange.

Ramon Zenhaeusern, who won a slalom in Alta Badia on Monday, finished eight-tenths off the lead in 13th.

Kristoffer Jakobsen of Sweden posted the fastest second-run time for a second straight day, and finished 10th.

The men’s World Cup continues with the classic downhill in Bormio next Monday.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

LG Snowboard-Cross FIS World Cup

Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko

Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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