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Stina Nilsson
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Stina Nilsson, Olympic champion cross-country skier, changes sports

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Sweden’s Stina Nilsson is switching from cross-country skiing to biathlon, two years after winning four skiing medals, including gold, at the PyeongChang Olympics.

“My basic idea was to run cross-country skiing for another Olympics and then change after the season 2022,” Nilsson said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “But because of my injury [season-ending fractured rib in late December] I have been given a lot of time to think and test shoot and I feel that I really do not want to wait any longer.”

Nilsson, 26, is arguably the world’s fastest female cross-country skier. She won the PyeongChang Olympic sprint (classic format) and took silver in the 2019 World Championships sprint (freestyle).

Her PyeongChang title came by a margin of 3.03 seconds in a three-minute race, the biggest rout in an Olympic men’s or women’s sprint final since the event debuted in 2002. Eight days later, American Jessie Diggins held off Nilsson in the final kick of the team sprint (freestyle) to earn the U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title.

The most famous athlete to succeed in both cross-country skiing and biathlon was Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen, whose 13 Olympic biathlon medals make him the second-most decorated Winter Olympian in history. Bjørndalen also won a World Cup cross-country race and finished fifth in the 2002 Olympic 30km event.

“I am humbled by the biathlon challenges, where I believe that the routine of the rifle and learning all about the weapon, such as when and how to screw, will be the biggest challenge,” Nilsson said, according to FIS, “but they are a challenge I look forward to.”

Sweden is strong in both biathlon and cross-country skiing. It took PyeongChang Olympic silver in the relay, anchored by individual gold medalist Hanna Öberg. The Swedes dropped to fifth in the relay at this season’s worlds.

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Mondo Duplantis breaks pole vault world record again

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Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, a 20-year-old Swede, broke the pole vault world record for the second straight Saturday.

Duplantis, who last week broke the world record by one centimeter, again went one centimeter higher at an indoor meet in Glasgow. The record is now 6.18 meters, or a little taller than 20 feet, 3 inches.

“It’s really complicated, but I guess when you’re doing it right, it seems simple,” Duplantis, who earned a $30,000 bonus for the world record, said on the BBC.

The progression is reminiscent of Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka. Bubka increased the world record by one centimeter on nine occasions from 1988-1994, taking advantage of bonus money each time he broke it.

Duplantis is a dual citizen born and raised in Louisiana, spending summers in his mother’s native Sweden.

His father, Greg, finished fifth in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials pole vault.

Duplantis grew up pole vaulting in his family backyard at age 3 with older brother Andreas and became a prodigy, breaking age-group records as early as 7.

He competed in high school in Lafayette, La., through 2018. He competed one season for LSU before turning pro last year.

Before last Saturday, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie held the world record at 6.16 meters, set indoors in 2014. Bubka still holds the highest outdoor clearance of 6.14.

Duplantis is the Olympic favorite, but American Sam Kendricks is the two-time reigning world champion, relegating Duplantis to silver at last year’s worlds. Duplantis beat Kendricks on Saturday for the second time in two head-to-heads this year.

Duplantis is bidding to become the youngest Olympic pole vault champion since 1932, according to the OlyMADMen.

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Mondo Duplantis breaks pole vault world record

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Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, a 20-year-old Swede raised in Louisiana, broke a six-year-old record in the pole vault at an indoor meet on Saturday.

Duplantis cleared 6.17 meters — or 20 feet and nearly 3 inches — in Torun, Poland.

“It’s something that I wanted since I was 3 years old,” the dual citizen Duplantis said, according to World Athletics. “It doesn’t feel like it’s really happening right now. It kind of feels fake, this whole thing, like I didn’t actually break the world record, like there’s a catch to it or something.”

France’s Renaud Lavillenie held the previous overall record of 6.16 meters, set at an indoor meet in Ukraine in 2014. Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka holds the outdoor world record of 6.14 meters, set in 1994.

“Have a good day baby,” Lavillenie texted Duplantis before Saturday’s meet, according to World Athletics, “but not too good.”

Duplantis, the world silver medalist, took three attempts at a world record at an indoor meet on Tuesday.

He and American Sam Kendricks, the two-time reigning world champion, traded head-to-head wins in the last year and are the Tokyo Olympic favorites. Kendricks broke an 18-year-old U.S. indoor record by clearing 6.01 meters at a different meet Saturday.

Duplantis is bidding to become the youngest Olympic pole vault champion since 1932, according to the OlyMADMen.

His mother, Helena, is a Sweden native and was a heptathlete and volleyball player growing up. His father, Greg, finished fifth in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials pole vault.

Duplantis grew up pole vaulting in his family backyard with older brother Andreas and became a prodigy, breaking age-group records as early as 7.

He spent summers in Sweden and competed in high school in Lafayette, La., through 2018. He competed one season for LSU before turning pro last year.

Another older brother, Antoine, is an outfielder drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round last year.

“My emotions right when I landed in the pit, just yelling and just running around doing whatever,” Duplantis said. “I don’t think I had a brain for a second. Literally just living through the crowd.”

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