U.S. wins Alpine skiing worlds team event for first time after Norway crash


MERIBEL, France — Broken bones. Surgeries. Rehab. Stinging losses.

American resilience and a never-give-up attitude following a series of physical and mental challenges paid off for Nina O’Brien, Tommy Ford, Paula Moltzan and River Radamus at the world Alpine skiing championships on Tuesday — all the way to gold in the team event.

O’Brien had to endure four surgeries after a gruesome compound fracture at the Beijing Olympics that left her bone protruding from her left leg. Ford suffered a concussion, damaged ligaments and the meniscus in his right knee, broke his tibial plateau and hurt his wrist during a devastating crash on the famed giant slalom course in Adelboden, Switzerland, two years ago.

Moltzan competed for most of last season with a broken left hand, while Radamus kept on pushing after just missing the podium with three fourth-place results at big events — in giant slalom and the team event in Beijing and again in combined at worlds last week.

The four Americans teamed up to edge defending champion Norway 3-2 in the final and each earn their first senior-level gold medal.

It marked the first U.S. medal in the team event, which debuted at the world championships in 2005 and was part of the last two Olympics. A U.S. team with Mikaela Shiffrin placed fourth at last year’s Olympics. The team event has since been cut from the Olympics.

Most of the world’s top skiers did not take part in Tuesday’s event — including Shiffrin — many to prioritize preparing for individual events later this week.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

“We’ve all gone through the ringer a bit,” Ford said. “We heal up, and we can still ski and really I’m grateful to be here, and I think everyone else is, too.”

Ford won the final, decisive run when Timon Haugan got stuck in the start.

“I didn’t see him out of the corner of my eye,” Ford said. “I knew he was fast, so I was just like, something must have happened. But I wasn’t going to let up at all.”

Canada beat Olympic champion Austria for the bronze medal.

The event featured teams of two men and two women with four runs of parallel racing in each round.

The United States beat Poland, Italy and Canada to reach the final.

It had been 2-2 in the final after Moltzan and Thea Louise Stjernesund finished in a tie in the penultimate heat.

Moltzan broke her left hand again in her final run, damaging three fingers.

“Paula gave absolutely everything on that run. It was pretty inspiring,” Radamus said. “And then for Tommy to have to clutch up in the end there, I think he’s so steady, always so even keel, doesn’t let the moment get to him. And he was able to execute and perform there, which is really cool.”

O’Brien won the opening heat of the final against Kristin Lysdahl.

“Being here at the world championships was a big goal of mine,” O’Brien said. “But getting to celebrate and share today with our team is just something special I never expected.”

Alexander Steen Olsen of Norway narrowly edged Radamus.

“I really buy into this team event,” said Radamus, who won a combined five golds at the Youth Olympics and the junior worlds. “From an outsider’s perspective, ski racing is an individual sport, but to me it’s all about team.

“Tommy and Nina and Paula — I’m on the road with them all year round, and especially as Americans in a European-dominated sport, we spend a lot of time together over here,” Radamus added. “So everything I do is because they are motivating me and pushing me to do it. And so to be able to celebrate like this together is so special to me.”

The team gold highlighted how the U.S. squad is no longer only about Shiffrin.

Moltzan has been on the podium in slalom this season, O’Brien placed 10th in the final giant slalom before worlds and Jett Seymour achieved an almost unheard-of seventh-place finish in World Cup slalom with the No. 59 bib 10 days ago — then followed that up by winning a second-tier Europa Cup slalom by nearly a full second.

“Everybody is fired up and has a lot of confidence,” U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml said. “So we’ll see what’s going to happen next. We got a strong team.”

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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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