Olympic medalists, Lolo Jones not on bobsled team for last race before Olympic team named

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U.S. bobsled coaches did not choose their most experienced push athletes — Olympic silver medalist Lauren Gibbs, Olympic bronze medalist Aja Evans and Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones — to compete in the last World Cup before the Olympic team is named.

None have raced in 2022. It’s possible none will be on the Olympic team.

Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor, who are expected to be the two Olympic drivers, are paired with Sylvia Hoffman and Kaysha Love, respectively, for a World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend, U.S. head coach Mike Kohn said. A broadcast schedule is here.

Those were also the pairings at the most recent World Cup last weekend, where Humphries and Meyers Taylor finished third and fourth behind a pair of German sleds on a German track.

“We had good results there,” Kohn said. “Coaches decided we give that another look.”

The federation is expected to announce the Olympic team, likely two drivers and two push athletes, plus a traveling alternate, soon after this weekend’s competition. The federation chooses push athletes via discretionary criteria, including looking at this season’s results.

World Cup starters and the Olympic team are chosen by separate groups using different criteria. Kohn is the only person who is in both of the groups.

“Long story short, [Olympic selection] involves a lot more than current season results,” Kohn said. That criteria is here, including international experience over the last four years and preseason combine results.

Hoffman and Love, trying for their first Olympics, have competed five and four times on the World Cup this season, respectively. Gibbs, Jones and Lake Kwaza and Evans competed once.

In Kohn’s opinion, Hoffman and Love have been the most impressive U.S. push athletes this season.

“I think the coaching staff feels the same way,” he said. “Will they be able to sustain that and perform this weekend and be ready for the Games? I don’t know. That’s a selection committee decision.”

Last week, all six push athletes each took one run with either Meyers Taylor or Humphries in training. Five out of the six push times were within .02 of a second of each other. Hoffman, pushing with Humphries, had the fastest push time and top velocity. Love, also with Humphries, had the second-best velocity and one of the fastest push times, Kohn said.

Gibbs, a 2018 Olympic silver medalist pushing for Meyers Taylor, raced in one World Cup on Dec. 19.

On Monday, Gibbs shared on Instagram that she was not chosen to compete in St. Moritz, then listed her career accomplishments and wrote, “And all I can say is… I did the dam thing!”

Evans, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist when she pushed for the now-retired Jamie Greubel Poser, competed internationally once since placing fifth with Greubel Poser in PyeongChang. She returned to the national team last year, but was set back by a Dec. 3 training accident that put her in a hospital with facial lacerations.

Evans was scheduled to compete on the World Cup that weekend until the injury happened.

“I’ve gone over a hundred different ways this could’ve ended me,” was posted on Evans’ social media Monday. “But, I’m STILL HERE. Life is about how you handle the uncertainty, the obstacles, and the difficulties that come along the way.”

Jones, who won a world championship pushing for Humphries last season, dealt with a torn adductor before the season and competed once internationally this season on Nov. 28. In that race, she and Humphries finished 10th with the 10th- and 11th-fastest start times, the worst result for a U.S. sled this season.

“It just did not go well, and we didn’t expect it to be that way,” Kohn said. “I don’t know what happened.”

Jones shared on social media that her father died right before the holidays in December, and she chose to stay in Europe with the team, Kohn said.

If selected for the Olympics, Jones will likely be the oldest U.S. female athlete across all sports in Beijing at age 39.

Jones has been hoping to potentially cap her Olympic career in the city where it started, Beijing, where she hit the penultimate hurdle while leading the 2008 Olympic 100m hurdles final and ended up seventh. That race was held in the Bird’s Nest, where the Opening Ceremony will be on Feb. 4.

“The selection committee has got a tough job,” Kohn said. “I’ve had an incredible journey with them, and I hate to see it come to an end. I wish I could take every one of them to the Olympic Games.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Evans has not competed this season, based on erroneous International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation official results. 

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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