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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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

Delta LA 2028
LA 2028

Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record was the product of pain, rain

Eliud Kipchoge

When Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon world record in Berlin on Sunday, he began his celebration near the finish line by doing the same thing he did upon breaking the record in Berlin four years earlier.

He hugged longtime coach Patrick Sang.

The embrace was brief. Not much was said. They shook hands, Kipchoge appeared to stop his watch and Sang wiped his pupil’s sweaty face off with a towel. Kipchoge continued on his congratulatory tour.

“It felt good,” Sang said by phone from his native Kenya on Thursday. “I told him, ‘I’m proud of you and what you have achieved today.'”

Later, they met again and reflected together on the 2:01:09 performance, chopping 30 seconds off his world record in 2018 in the German capital.

“I mentioned to him that probably it was slightly a little bit too fast in the beginning, in the first half,” Sang said of Kipchoge going out in 59 minutes, 51 seconds for the first 13.1 miles (a sub-two-hour pace he did not maintain in the final miles). “But he said he felt good.

“Besides that, I think it was just to appreciate the effort that he put in in training. Sometimes, if you don’t acknowledge that, then it looks like you’re only looking at the performance. We looked at the sacrifice.”

Sang thought about the abnormally wet season in southwestern Kenya, where Kipchoge logs his daily miles more than a mile above sea level.

“Sometimes he had to run in the rain,” said Sang, the 1992 Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medalist. “Those are small things you reflect and say, it’s worth sacrificing sometimes. Taking the pain training, and it pays off.”

When Sang analyzes his athletes, he looks beyond times. He studies their faces.

The way Kipchoge carried himself in the months leading into Berlin — running at 6 a.m. “rain or shine,” Sang said — reminded the coach of the runner’s sunny disposition in the summer of 2019. On Oct. 12 of that year, Kipchoge clocked 1:59:40 in the Austrian capital in a non-record-eligible event (rather than a traditional race) to become the first person to cover 26.2 miles on foot in less than two hours.

Sang said he does not discuss time goals with his students — “Putting specific targets puts pressure on the athlete, and you can easily go the wrong direction,” he said.

In looking back on the race, there is some wonder whether Kipchoge’s plan was to see how long he could keep a pace of sub-two hours. Sang refused to speculate, but he was not surprised to see Kipchoge hit the halfway point 61 seconds faster than the pacers’ prescribed 60:50 at 13.1 miles.

“Having gone two hours in Monza [2:00:25 in a sub-two-hour attempt in 2017], having run the unofficial 1:59 and so many times 2:01, 2:02, 2:03, the potential was written all over,” Sang said. “So I mean, to think any differently would be really under underrating the potential. Of course, then adding on top of that the aspect of the mental strength. He has a unique one.”

Kipchoge slowed in the second half, but not significantly. He started out averaging about 2 minutes, 50 seconds per kilometer (equivalent to 13.2 miles per hour). He came down to 2:57 per kilometer near the end.

Regret is not in Kipchoge’s nature. We may never know the extent of his sub-two thoughts on Sunday. Sang noted that Kipchoge, whose marathon career began a decade ago after he failed to make the London Olympic team on the track, does not dwell on the past.

“If you talk to him now, he probably is telling you about tomorrow,” Sang joked.

The future is what is intriguing about Kipchoge. Approaching 38 years old, he continues to improve beyond peak age for almost every elite marathoner. Can Kipchoge go even faster? It would likely require a return next year to Berlin, whose pancake-flat roads produced the last eight men’s marathon world records. But Kipchoge also wants to run, and win, another prestigious fall marathon in New York City.

Sang can see the appeal of both options in 2023 and leaves the decision to Kipchoge and his management team.

‘If we can find the motivation for him, or he finds it within himself, that he believes he can still run for some time, for a cause, for a reason … I think the guy can still even do better than what he did in Berlin,” Sang said. “We are learning a lot about the possibilities of good performance at an advanced age. It’s an inspiration and should be an inspiration for anybody at any level.”

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