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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Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz exit French Open, leaving no U.S. men

Frances Tiafoe French Open

Frances Tiafoe kept coming oh so close to extending his French Open match against Alexander Zverev: 12 times Saturday night, the American was two points from forcing things to a fifth set.

Yet the 12th-seeded Tiafoe never got closer than that.

Instead, the 22nd-seeded Zverev finished out his 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory after more than 3 1/2 hours in Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the fourth round. With Tiafoe’s exit, none of the 16 men from the United States who were in the bracket at the start of the tournament are still in the field.

“I mean, for the majority of the match, I felt like I was in control,” said Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who fell to 1-7 against Zverev.

“It’s just tough,” he said about a half-hour after his loss ended, rubbing his face with his hand. “I should be playing the fifth right now.”

Two other American men lost earlier Saturday: No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz and unseeded Marcos Giron.

No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina beat Fritz 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, and Nicolas Jarry of Chile eliminated Giron 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3.

There are three U.S women remaining: No. 6 Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Bernarda Pera.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

It is the second year in a row that zero men from the United States will participate in the fourth round at Roland Garros. If nothing else, it stands as a symbolic step back for the group after what seemed to be a couple of breakthrough showings at the past two majors.

For Tiafoe, getting to the fourth round is never the goal.

“I want to win the trophy,” he said.

Remember: No American man has won any Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open. The French Open has been the least successful major in that stretch with no U.S. men reaching the quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003.

But Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open along the way to getting to the semifinals there last September, the first time in 16 years the host nation had a representative in the men’s final four at Flushing Meadows.

Then, at the Australian Open this January, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Ben Shelton became the first trio of Americans in the men’s quarterfinals in Melbourne since 2000. Paul made it a step beyond that, to the semifinals.

After that came this benchmark: 10 Americans were ranked in the ATP’s Top 50, something that last happened in June 1995.

On Saturday, after putting aside a whiffed over-the-shoulder volley — he leaned atop the net for a moment in disbelief — Tiafoe served for the fourth set at 5-3, but couldn’t seal the deal.

In that game, and the next, and later on, too, including at 5-all in the tiebreaker, he would come within two points of owning that set.

Each time, Zverev claimed the very next point. When Tiafoe sent a forehand wide to end it, Zverev let out two big yells. Then the two, who have been pals for about 15 years, met for a warm embrace at the net, and Zverev placed his hand atop Tiafoe’s head.

“He’s one of my best friends on tour,” said Zverev, a German who twice has reached the semifinals on the red clay of Paris, “but on the court, I’m trying to win.”

At the 2022 French Open, Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle while playing Nadal in the semifinals and had to stop.

“It’s been definitely the hardest year of my life, that’s for sure,” Zverev said. “I love tennis more than anything in the world.”

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, is her top remaining challenger in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round. No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who has three wins over Swiatek this year, withdrew before her third-round match due to illness.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw