Gus Kenworthy combats concussion, COVID before final events of freestyle skiing career

Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2020 - Day 4
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Gus Kenworthy‘s run-up to his third and final Olympics has been challenging, and that’s an understatement.

Kenworthy, who in 2019 announced a switch from the U.S. to Great Britain, hopes to complete a competition for the first time in a year at this week’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

Kenworthy, 30, said Tuesday that his next two events will be the last two of his career — the X Games, where he hopes to fulfill a dream of winning a gold medal, and the Beijing Olympics. The British federation is expected to name its Olympic roster on Friday.

Kenworthy was part of a U.S. podium sweep in the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle competition in 2014, taking silver between Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper.

After coming out in 2015, he was one of the most followed athletes going into the PyeongChang Games, where he placed 12th in the 12-man ski slopestyle final coming off injuries. He broke his right thumb three days before the competition and had six vials of blood drained from a hip hematoma two days before it.

In announcing his switch to Great Britain, his birth nation, Kenworthy said he was going to focus on halfpipe going toward Beijing.

In late October, Kenworthy suffered what he called a pretty bad concussion at a training camp in Switzerland, the latest in a string of head injuries in recent years.

Two weeks later, he started feeling very ill and tested positive for the coronavirus (while fully vaccinated). He felt “completely wiped out” while quarantined in a hotel for 10 days before flying home.

He went to compete for the first time this season on Dec. 8, but said he got lost in the air doing his first trick in the halfpipe — “the skiing equivalent to the ‘twisties,'” he posted — and withdrew. Kenworthy hasn’t competed since.

On Dec. 12, Kenworthy posted that he was still experiencing head issues — becoming light-headed, disoriented and nauseous when he got his heart rate up. After consulting with specialists, he believed they were residual effects of the virus rather than the concussion.

“There was a moment where I was nervous that, even having my Olympic spot, I might not be able to do it, because at that moment, I really couldn’t ski,” Kenworthy said.

But medication has helped, and he trained in Copper Mountain, Colorado, over the last two weeks.

“I have done all of the tricks that I need to do in my run now,” said Kenworthy, who owns seven medals among the Olympics, world championships and X Games, but no gold. “I haven’t put it all together, but I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling more confident. I don’t know if I feel 100 percent, but I feel like 90 percent, and if there’s ever a time to give it my all, it’s right now because X Games is really the near-and-dear event to my heart.”

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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