Carly Margulies last competed in 2019, yet she’s skiing at the Olympics

Carly Margulies
Jason Wolle

When Carly Margulies takes her first Olympic ski halfpipe qualifying run on Feb. 17, it will be her first competitive action of any kind since December 2019.

Margulies, who underwent seven knee surgeries since 2013, including three since her last contest, earned the fourth and final spot on the U.S. Olympic women’s ski halfpipe team.

Her story baffles Olympic historians. They can’t think of another recent American in any sport who didn’t compete at all in the two years before an Olympic appearance.

The U.S. is the world’s deepest nation in women’s halfpipe skiing, boasting seven of the world’s top 20 this season.

So how did Margulies make the four-woman Olympic team without competing once during the coronavirus pandemic?

In golf and tennis, sidelined athletes can keep their pre-injury tournament eligibility for a certain amount of time in coming back from an extended absence.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has a similar rule for the international ranking system that U.S. Ski and Snowboard uses to determine some Olympic spots.

Margulies was ranked 10th in the world when she competed for the last time in December 2019, tearing her right ACL and meniscus for the third time and needing 14 months to recover.

She was granted injury status after that season, with 10 percent of her 450 points deducted. She retained that status this past year.

She was ready to return to competition last month but tore her left medial meniscus the day before the first of five Olympic qualifying events.

Doctors said she needed surgery, and likely a six-to-nine-month recovery.

Margulies figured that not only was her Olympic dream over (four years after just missing the PyeongChang Games), but also her career. At 24, she couldn’t possibly endure another extensive rehab for the 2026 Olympic cycle.

A few days later, Margulies was given a different plan. The meniscus wasn’t repairable. The surgery would instead be “a snip of the damaged area,” she said. That meant a four-to-six-week recovery.

Margulies would miss all five of the Olympic qualifying events. She had no chance to earn her place on the team via podium results.

But there was one other possible route. The fourth and final spot on the team was up for grabs. She could file an injury petition for it. Or, just maybe, she could get in objectively via her injury-protected world ranking from two years ago.

When Margulies went under the knife last month, she ranked 13th in the world and fourth among Americans via her points from 2019. Three more Americans were in 16th, 18th and 19th places overall.

So Margulies waited it out. If one of the other U.S. hopefuls fared well in the qualifying events — competitions with skiers from around the world — her chance of getting in via either route would decline. Perhaps vanish.

But none of the Americans ranked behind her made a podium in Olympic qualifying. Last week, the FIS rankings updated one last time. Margulies was still in fourth place among Americans.

Margulies said she was driving her 2012 Volkswagen Touareg from Salt Lake City to her home of Mammoth Lakes, California, on the day that U.S. Ski and Snowboard would fill the last spot. She made it 130 miles before her car broke down.

So Margulies became the first person in history to learn that they qualified for the Olympics while at S&R Auto of Wendover, Utah.

“I started crying, and the mechanics at the auto shop around me were so confused,” she said of receiving the news in a phone call. “So it was a good day and bad day. Mostly good.”

She was later towed back to Salt Lake City, then booked a flight the next day to Mammoth.

Four years earlier in Mammoth, Margulies finished fourth in the last Olympic qualifier for the PyeongChang Games. It was the best World Cup result of her career, but not enough to move up from fifth place to fourth in the U.S. standings. She just missed that four-woman Olympic team.

“Obviously in that moment, I was really, really upset. But looking back at it, I don’t think I would have been ready to go to the Olympics [in 2018],” she said. “There’s a reason behind me not going at that time. And there’s a reason I’m going now.”

Margulies said she returned to skiing from her seventh surgery two weeks ago. Her knees are doing well, and she got all her tricks back.

But that belies the struggle of the past decade. In March 2011, ski halfpipe was added to the Olympic program. Margulies, then 13, gabbed with her friends about becoming an Olympian one day.

In December 2013, she tore her right ACL and meniscus in practice and was out for a year. In an eight-year stretch, she tore her right ACL and meniscus three separate times, her left ACL and meniscus once and, separately, her right and left medial meniscus each once.

“It takes a toll on you, physically and mentally,” Margulies said. “So many people, close to me even, told me that I should give up, that I should try something else, that I need to just move on. That hurt a lot, for sure, but I used those people’s opinions as motivation to prove them wrong.”

Margulies’ take on an unprecedented realization of an Olympic dream?

“Perseverance pays off,” she said. “You can make those dreams a reality, no matter what the setbacks are.”

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

Elena Fanchini

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

Fanchini 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 combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her 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 a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

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

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing

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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