U.S. ski jumper Anna Hoffmann a late entry into Olympics

U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials
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The U.S. will have a female ski jumper at the Olympics after all.

Anna Hoffmann, originally the sixth alternate, got into the Olympic field after two nations returned a quota spot and four of the top five alternate nations declined spots, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Hoffmann, 21, won the Olympic Trials on Christmas but was not expected to make it to the Beijing Games due to the U.S. not performing well in international competitions to earn any Olympic berths outright.

“We’re a developing, growing team, and we’re more focused on the depth of our team and the long shot of it,” Hoffmann said earlier this winter on NPR.

Had the U.S. not had any female ski jumpers at the Olympics for the first time, it would have been a notable absence.

The nation was at the forefront of the fight for women’s ski jumping’s inclusion in the Games. 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.

The U.S. men earned three Olympic quota spots in ski jumping but failed to qualify for the Olympic team event for the first time. The men’s team event was added in 1988.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”