U.S. women’s ski jumpers miss out on Olympic qualification

U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials
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U.S. women’s ski jumpers failed to qualify any spots for the Beijing Winter Olympics, a notable absence for the nation that helped lead the fight for women’s ski jumping’s inclusion in the Games.

The International Ski Federation posted the final Olympic quota allocations, based on international competitions, on Monday. The U.S. did not move up from its place outside the Olympic quota.

Anna Hoffmann, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials on Christmas, can only get into the Olympic field if six spots go unfilled among nations that did qualify. That’s very unlikely.

“Obviously it’s disappointing because all of us want to be Olympians,” Hoffmann said earlier this winter on NPR. “We’re a developing, growing team, and we’re more focused on the depth of our team and the long shot of it.”

Americans were at the heart of early milestones in women’s ski jumping.

In 2008, Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome were among 15 female ski jumpers to sue the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee for gender discrimination over not having women’s ski jumping on the Olympic program. Men’s ski jumping has been on the program since the first Winter Games in 1924.

While the British Columbia Supreme Court declared the IOC exhibited gender discrimination by excluding women’s ski jumping, it stopped short of forcing organizers to hold an event, stating that Canadian law had no jurisdiction over the IOC.

In 2009, Van won the first women’s event in world ski jumping championships history.

After women’s ski jumping was added to the Olympic program for the 2014 Sochi Games, American Sarah Hendrickson became the first woman to take a competitive ski jump in Olympic history.

Van and Jerome retired after their lone Olympics in 2014. Hendrickson announced her retirement last March. A U.S. ski jumper hasn’t finished in the top 10 in an individual World Cup in nearly five years.

“When I think about whether or not we send a woman to these Games [in Beijing], athletically we’re not quite ready yet anyway,” Billy Demong, the 2010 Olympic Nordic combined champion who is now the chief executive of USA Nordic, said, according to NPR.

The Olympic competition will also be without reigning Olympic gold medalist Maren Lundby. The Norwegian announced in October that she would not compete this season.

“Ski jumping is a sport with a lot of demands, weight is part of it,” Lundby said then, according to an Olympics.com translation. “My body has changed naturally lately, and for this reason I don’t want to sacrifice everything to be at the best level in Beijing.”

Austrian Marita Kramer is this season’s World Cup standings leader.

After women’s ski jumping was added to the Olympics, Nordic combined was left as the lone sport in either the Summer or Winter Games without female representation.

In December 2020, American Tara Geraghty-Moats won the first women’s Nordic combined World Cup event. It debuted at the world championships last February.

A women’s event was in 2018 denied a place on the 2022 Winter Olympic program — an IOC official cited a lack of Olympic-level athletes in a range of countries — but the World Cup and world championships inclusion could lead to a place at the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.

The U.S. men qualified two Olympic quota spots in ski jumping. Olympic Trials winner Kevin Bickner will fill one of them. It’s the first time the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympic men’s team event in ski jumping, which was added in 1988.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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