2014 medal projections: Jan. 14 update

Time for a few tweaks given the results (and untimely injuries) of late — and when you add it all up, we have a new leader:

Alpine skiing: Lindsey Vonn’s absence shakes things up a bit and pretty well insures the USA won’t come near its total of eight medals in 2010. Ted Ligety (third overall) and Mikaela Shiffrin are still favorites, and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal (second overall; downhill and super-G leader) is still as dominant as ever.

Changes:

  • Men’s downhill: Erik Guay (CAN) up to silver, Klaus Kröll (AUT) down to considered, Adrien Theaux (FRA) up to considered
  • Men’s giant slalom: Alexis Pinturault (FRA) up to bronze, Manfred Moelgg (ITA) down to considered
  • Men’s slalom: Mario Matt (AUT) up to silver, Ivica Kostelic (CRO) down to considered
  • Men’s combined: Pinturault up to gold, Ligety up to silver, Svindal up to bronze, Kostelic down to considered
  • Women’s downhill: Vonn out, Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) up to gold, Tina Maze (SLO) up to silver, Tina Weirather (LIE) up to bronze, Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden (SUI) up to considered
  • Women’s super-G: Vonn out, Anna Fenninger (AUT) up to gold, Tina Maze (SLO) down to silver, Lara Gut (SUI) up to bronze, Julia Mancuso (USA) down to considered
  • Women’s giant slalom: Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (SWE) up to considered
  • Women’s slalom: My medal picks are currently 1-2-4 in the World Cup standings. They’ll stay put.

Biathlon: Andreas Birnbacher (Germany) has been sick, so we won’t knock him out of the projections just yet. Not too many surprises on the men’s side, though France’s relay team needs to improve. The surprise in the women’s competition is the Czech Republic’s Gabriela Soukalova, who’s leading the World Cup standings. France’s Marie Dorin Habert has a ruptured tendon in her ankle, so we’ll remove her from consideration.

Changes:

  • Women’s sprint: Soukalova (CZE) up to bronze, Olena Pidrushna (UKR) down to considered
  • Women’s pursuit: Soukalova up to silver, Valj Semerenko (UKR) up to bronze, Andrea Henkel (GER) and Pidrushna down to considered

Bobsled: The early-season races in North America have skewed the current standings toward the U.S. and Canadian teams. The men haven’t done as well in Europe. Manuel Machata isn’t getting many opportunities for Germany, and Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis isn’t in great form.

Changes:

  • Men’s two-man and four-man: Drop Machata from considered
  • Women’s: Elana Meyers (USA) up to silver, Sandra Kiriasis (GER) down to bronze, Cathleen Martini (GER) down to considered, Jamie Greubel (USA) up to considered

Cross-country skiing: Dario Cologna (SUI) is trying to come back from ankle surgery. We’ll leave him in for now. A couple of other skiers have skipped the odd World Cup event or the entire Tour de Ski, so the World Cup standings from this season aren’t that meaningful. One surprise: American Simi Hamilton won a freestyle sprint.

Changes: 

  • Women’s sprint: Denise Herrman (GER) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) up to considered

Figure skating: Most of the pre-Sochi competition is complete aside from the European Championships this week, so the projections won’t change much. The Four Continents will only have a couple of Olympians in action. But qualification and national championships have made things interesting. Ashley Wagner placed fourth, and her inclusion is mildly controversial. Evgeni Plushenko on the fringe of Russia’s plans, Japan’s Miki Ando retired after missing out an Olympic berth, and projected gold medalist Mao Asada was third in Japan’s championships. At least defending gold medalist Yuna Kim won handily in South Korea after skipping the Grand Prix season. Gracie Gold’s score from U.S. Championships would be the highest in the world this year, but would international judges be as generous?

Changes:

  • Women’s: Gracie Gold (USA) considered. Miki Ando (Japan) out. Considered list now specifying the likely Russian skaters: Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia

Freestyle skiing: The X Games and World Cup events may still shake things up.

Changes in aerials

  • Men: 2010 World Cup champion Anton Kusnhir (BLR) missed the 2012-13 season and has come back with a win in Deer Valley and another podium. Countryman Alexei Grishin, the 2010 gold medalist, is making a comeback and was third in Deer Valley. They’re up to considered.
  • Women: We’ll see who makes China and Australia teams. USA’s Ashley Caldwell and Emily Cook up to considered.

Changes in moguls

  • Men: Medal contenders are 1-2-3 in World Cup. No change.
  • Women: No change, though Miki Ito (JPN) is trying to come back from a knee injury.

Changes in skicross

  • Men: Dave Duncan (CAN) up to silver, Andreas Matt (AUT) up to bronze, Chris Del Bosco (CAN) down to considered, Filip Flisar (SLO) down to considered
  • Women: Katrin Mueller (SUI) up to considered

Changes in slopestyle

  • Men: Waiting for U.S. team announcement to shake things up.
  • Women: Kaya Turski (CAN) is fighting a knee injury. Devin Logan (USA) up to considered

Changes in halfpipe

  • Men: Watching health of Torin Yater-Wallace (USA). Justin Dorey (CAN) up to considered.
  • Women: Roz Groenewoud (CAN) had — you guessed it — knee surgery. We’ll see how she recovers. Devin Logan (USA) up to considered — yes, in two events

Luge: They’ve run seven of nine World Cup events this season, so that should be enough to give us a clearer picture. Still a whole lot of Germany.

Changes

  • Men: David Möller (GER) up to silver, Dominik Fischnaller (ITA) up to bronze, Andi Langenhan (GER) down to considered, Chris Mazdzer (USA) up to considered
  • Women, doubles, relay: No change

Nordic combined: Most medal contenders are having solid seasons, particularly World Cup leader Eric Frenzel (GER) and Jason Lamy-Chappuis (FRA).

Changes

  • Normal hill: Mikko Kokslien (NOR) up to bronze, Bernhard Gruber (AUT) down to considered

Short-track speedskating: No change. We’ll keep an eye on the Euro championships and make sure all the picks are healthy, but the major pre-Sochi competitions are long complete.

Skeleton: Feeling a little more bullish on Matt Antoine (USA) but not quite moving him up into the medals.

Changes

  • Men: Tomass Dukurs (LAT) up to bronze, Frank Rommel (GER) down to considered
  • Women: Shelley Rudman (GBR) up to bronze, Marion Thees (GER) down to considered

Ski jumping: He used to look like Harry Potter. Then he looked like Trevor Horn. Now he’s back — Salt Lake/Vancouver champion Simon Ammann (SUI) was third in the Four Hills. And 40something Japanese jumper Noriaki Kasai is fourth in the World Cup. In women’s, we’re still holding out hope for the rehabbing Sarah Hendrickson (USA).

Changes

  • Men’s large hill: Simon Ammann (SUI) up to bronze, Noriaki Kasai (JPN) up to considered, Anders Jacobsen (NOR) down to considered
  • Women’s: Irina Avvakumova (RUS) up to bronze, Carina Vogt (GER) up to considered, Coline Mattel (FRA) down to considered

Snowboarding: Just did the picks 14 days ago; no point in changing anything until after the X Games.

Speedskating: These picks were also recent, and the European Allround Championships didn’t give us any reason to change.

No changes in curling or ice hockey, and no changes are likely unless we have a sudden wave of injuries or other changes.

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Big winter weekend for USA

No, I’m not talking about the fact that every tree and power line in the Mid-Atlantic is covered with ice right now. I’m talking about skiing, sliding and skating, where a lot of things went right for U.S. athletes two months and change before Sochi:

– Figure skating: Meryl White and Charlie Davis are hardly a surprise in ice dancing, though they have tough rivals for gold in Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. But the record they set in winning the Grand Prix Final was a grand statement. (NBC)

Ashley Wagner also made it to the podium — perhaps all isn’t lost for the non-dancing U.S. skaters in this Olympic year after all. But she’s not totally happy with her skating, and rival Yuna Kim wasn’t at the Final. (NBC)

– Speedskating: 1-2 for Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe. Get used to it. (NBC) Shani Davis lost his win streak but took third, and Richardson took another podium place as well. (NBC) And there was a surprise win for Joey Mantia. (NBC)

– Bobsled: Yes, it was on a home track, but this was total domination. Steve Holcomb won his third and fourth straight races. The U.S. women finished 1-3-4 in one race and 1-2-2 in another, with Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams getting medals. (NBC with video of Day 1; NBC with video of Day 2; USA TODAY)

Skeleton: Noelle Pikus-Pace said “disqualify THIS” and won in Park City. Matt Antoine took third. (NBC with video)

– Luge: Chris Mazdzer won the first World Cup medal for a U.S. man since 2007.  (NBC)

– Alpine skiing: Ted Ligety, as usual, won the giant slalom. Bode Miller’s second place was a little less expected. (NBC with video; USA TODAY)

And Lindsey Vonn got partway back with each race — 40th, 11th, fifth. (NBC with video | USA TODAY)

Not all is well on the Alpine team — after Ligety, Miller, Vonn and slalom specialist Mikaela Shiffrin, the rest of the U.S. skiers haven’t been competitive. But this weekend might make my ongoing medal projections look conservative for the USA.

2014 medal projections: Bobsled

Updated Jan. 14 and Feb. 4

No offense to those who give a big push at the start and go through the impeccably choreographed procedure of getting in the sled, but we’ll have to focus on drivers for these rankings. They’re the ones who get ranked, and the brakemen / brakewomen / push athletes will undoubtedly get shuffled before the Games.

Sweeps are theoretically possible. In each event, a couple of countries can bring three sleds. Some countries can even bring four drivers for the two men’s events.

But you can’t take a bunch of backup push athletes, which is why Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams were somewhat controversial inclusions.

Here we go …

TWO-MAN

Gold: Beat Hefti (Switzerland)
Silver: Francesco Friedrich (Germany)
Bronze: Alexander Zubkov (Russia)

Also: Thomas Florschütz (Germany), Steven Holcomb (USA), Oskars Melbardis (Latvia), Lyndon Rush (Canada)

World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Holcomb, Hefti, Zubkov, Friedrich, Cory Butner (USA), Nick Cunningham (USA), Rush, Florschütz

World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Rush, Melbardis, Manuel Machata (Germany), Holcomb, Zubkov, Friedrich, Simone Bertazzo (Italy), Butner … (Hefti and Florschütz missed part of the season.)

2013 World Championship top 8: Friedrich, Hefti, Florschütz, Holcomb, Melbardis, Chris Spring (Canada), Zubkov, Rush

2010 Olympic medalists: Andre Lange (Germany, retired), Florschütz, Zubkov

FOUR-MAN

Gold: Alexander Zubkov (Russia)
Silver: Maximilian Arndt (Germany)
Bronze: Steven Holcomb (USA)

Also: Oskars Melbardis (Latvia)

World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Arndt, Holcomb, Zubkov, Thomas Florschütz (Germany), Chris Spring (Canada), Alexander Kasjanov (Russia), Melbardis, Francesco Friedrich (Germany)

World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Zubkov, Melbardis, Manuel Machata (Germany), Arndt, John James Jackson (Britain), Holcomb, Lyndon Rush (Canada), Kasnajov

2013 World Championship top 8: Arndt, Zubkov, Holcomb, Hefti, Jackson, Rico Peter (Switzerland), Florschütz, Machata

2010 Olympic medalists: Holcomb, Andre Lange (Germany, retired), Rush

WOMEN

Gold: Kaillie Humphries (Canada)
Silver: Elana Meyers (USA)
Bronze: Sandra Kiriasis (Germany)

Also: Jamie Greubel (USA), Cathleen Martini (Germany), Anja Schneiderheinze (Germany)

World Cup 2013-14 top 8: Humphries, Meyers, Greubel, Kiriasis, Martini, Schneiderheinze, Jazmine Fenlator (USA), Fabienne Meyer (Switzerland)

World Cup 2012-13 top 8: Humphries, Kiriasis, Martini, Schneiderheinze, Esme Kamphuis (Netherlands), Meyers, Meyer, Christina Hengster (Austria)

2013 World Championship top 8: Humphries, Meyers, Kiriasis, Martini, Schneiderheinze, Kamphuis, Miriam Wagner (Germany), Fenlator

2010 Olympic medalists: Humphries, Helen Upperton (Canada), Erin Pac (USA; retired)

BIOS

Men

Maximilian Arndt (Germany): 2013 four-man world champion (w/Marko Huebenbecker, Alexander Roediger, Martin Putze). Also had two first and two seconds in the last five World Cup four-man races. Silver (four-man) and bronze (two-man) in 2012 worlds.

Cory Butner (USA): Two runner-up finishes on home ice in World Cup two-man races in 2012-13.

Nick Cunningham (USA): Third place on home ice in World Cup four-man race at Lake Placid 2012.

Thomas Florschütz (Germany): 2010 two-man bronze medalist and three-time World Championship two-man runner-up came on strong at the end of 2012-13, with one win and two runner-up finishes in last four two-man races. Also third in World Championship two-man (w/Andreas Bredau).

Francesco Friedrich (Germany): 2013 two-man world champion (w/Jannis Baecker). Reached podium in six of seven two-man World Cup races in 2012-13.

Steven Holcomb (USA): Great story, told in his book But Now I See: My Journey from Blindness to Olympic Gold. Won four-man world title in 2009, four-man Olympic gold in 2010 and BOTH world titles in 2012. In 2012-13: Ran well in the USA and not as well in Europe. Won first three two-man races and finished fourth on the season; finished sixth overall in four-man. The “Night Train” four-man sled (Steve Langton, Justin Olsen, Curt Tomasevicz) gets the publicity, but he’s formidable in two-man as well.

Beat Hefti (Switzerland): Not a big-band leader of the 1940s but a veteran with three Olympic bronze medals (2002 two-man, 2006 both races) and one world title (2007 four-man). Missed part of the 2012-13 World Cup season, then won three two-man and one four-man race. Also second in World Championship two-man (w/Thomas Lamparter).

John James Jackson (Britain): No finish higher than fifth in World Cup 2012-13, but he finished fifth overall in four-man. World Championship four-man? Also fifth. Also a longtime Royal Marine commando. Ruptured Achilles this summer but is already training again.

Alexander Kasjanov (Russia): Had a couple of World Cup four-man podium finishes in 2012-13. Fourth in 2011-12 World Cup four-man.

Manuel Machata (Germany): Huge year in 2010-11: Four-man World Cup champion, two-man World Cup runner-up, two-man and four-man world champion. 2011-12: Third in World Championship four-man. 2012-13: Third in each World Cup discipline. Missed out on Olympics. That’s how tough the German team is.

Oskars Melbardis (Latvia): Good career as push athlete; switched to driver for 2010-11 season and has a few World Cup podium finishes. Second in each discipline in 2012-13 World Cup.

Lyndon Rush (Canada): Two-man World Cup champion 2012-13, with two wins. 2010 bronze medalist in four-man. Second in two-man in 2012 worlds. Longtime two-man partner is former CFL football player Jesse Lumsden.

Alexander Zubkov (Russia): Dominant in four-man 2012-13, winning five of his eight World Cup races and missing the podium only once. World Championship four-man runner-up (with Alexey Negodaylo, Dmitry Trunenkov, Maxim Mokrousov). Not as strong in two-man, but he does have 2010 bronze and 2011 world title.

Women

Jazmine Fenlator (USA): Former brakewoman had two podiums in 2012-13.

Kaillie Humphries (Canada): 2010 gold medalist was overwhelming in 2012-13: Six wins, one second-place finish and two third-place finishes. Plus the World Championship, her second straight. Husband Dan is a push athlete (not on her sled, obviously).

Esme Kamphuis (Netherlands): Fifth in World Cup 2012-13. Sixth in 2010-11 (one podium).

Sandra Kiriasis (Germany): Olympic finishes: 2002 silver, 2006 gold, 2010 fourth. World champion in 2005, 2007 and 2008. In 2012-13: Two wins out of six podiums in nine World Cup races (second overall), third in World Championships.

Cathleen Martini (Germany): One win, three podiums (third overall) in World Cup 2012-13. World champion in 2011; World Cup champion in 2011-12. Fourth in last two World Championships. Crashed in 2010 Olympics.

Fabienne Meyer (Switzerland): Fourth (top non-German) in 2011-12 World Cup, with four podiums. In 2012-13: Seventh with one podium.

Elana Meyers (USA): 2012-13: Not consistent but had four World Cup podiums and runner-up finish in World Championships.

Anja Schneiderheinze (Germany): Sandra Kiriasis’ former brakewoman started World Cup driving career midway through 2010-11 World Cup with three straight runner-up finishes. Second in 2011-12 World Cup (two wins); fourth in 2012-13 World Cup. Fifth in 2013 World Championships.

Monday Myriad: Feb. 4

Yes, this will be more of an evening thing from now on.

The week’s headlines:

– Jose Aldo defended his UFC featherweight title as Frankie Edgar suffered yet another close decision loss. The rest of the UFC 156 card scrambled the title chases in ways I’m still working out. Rashad Evans was supposed to fight for the middleweight title, but he lost a dreary light heavyweight fight to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. In the heavyweight division, Alistair Overeem was supposed to fight for the title, but Antonio Silva knocked him out. And now lightweight contender Anthony Pettis says he wants to drop down to featherweight and fight Aldo.

– Steve Holcomb’s four-man sled set a track record in the fourth and final heat to take bronze in the World Championships.

– Noelle Pikus-Pace took silver in the skeleton World Championships.

– Erin Hamlin and Chris Mazdzer each placed sixth in their events at the luge World Championships. They, along with doubles team Matthew Mortensen/Preston Griffall, placed fifth in the team event.

– The U.S. men struggled past Brazil in the Davis Cup. Turned out to be a great first round for North America, with Canada upsetting Spain.

– Katie Compton was second in the elite women’s race at the cyclocross World Championships.

– Helen Maroulis was the Outstanding Wrestler at the Dave Schultz Invitational.

– U.S. sailors at the World Cup stop in Miami: Five golds, three silvers, three bronzes.

– Upcoming: Biathlon and Alpine skiing world championships, some of which will be televised. Also the U.S. men vs. Honduras as World Cup qualifying’s Hexagonal starts.

http://storify.com/duresport/monday-myriad-feb-4-features

Winter weekend: World Championships vs. X Games

Quick peek at the calendar shows us a couple of items to consider for 2014 medal projections:

12-27: Handball, Men’s World Championships
14-27: Tennis, Australian Open
18-27: Snowboarding, World Championships
19-Feb. 10: Soccer, African Cup of Nations
20-27: Figure skating, U.S. Championships
24: Bellator: Askren vs. Amoussou (welterweight title)
24-27: Winter X Games Aspen
25-Feb. 2 Bobsled/skeleton, World Championships

A few details:

SNOWBOARDING (worlds and X)

Reminder of the ever-expanding Olympic snowboarding program: halfpipe, snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom, slopestyle (new) and … parallel slalom (also new)?

The World Championships, underway in Stoneham, Quebec, have all those events, plus big air. The only problem is that a lot of top riders, especially Americans, have skipped the World Championships to prep for the X Games in Aspen, which will be heavily televised.

In slopestyle, the new world champs and runners-up in men’s and women’s slopestyle will make the trip — Roope Tonteri (FIN), Mark McMorris (CAN), Spencer O’Brien (CAN), Sina Candrian (SUI). Just a guess: Shaun White will get a bit more attention.

The men’s halfpipe has the top five from Worlds — Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI), Taku Hiraoka (JPN), Markus Malin (FIN), Christian Haller (SUI), Ryo Aono (JPN). But again, we’ll guess Shaun White will get the attention. And Louie Vito and Scotty Lago.

Do you know me? I'm a world champion at age 16. Photo by Oliver Kraus, FIS via USSA
Do you know me? I’m a world champion at age 16. Photo by Oliver Kraus, FIS via USSA

The women’s halfpipe (or SuperPipe, as they call it) features the big names: Kelly Clark, Elena Hight, Gretchen Bleiler, Hannah Teter and Aussie Torah Bright, who finished third in slopestyle at Worlds. The fourth- and fifth-place halfpipers in Quebec — USA’s Kaitlyn Farrington, Spain’s Queralt Castellet — will go to Aspen, while 16-year-old world champ Arielle Gold is an alternate. As Lane Myer said when he heard Ricky and Monique were speaking “the international language of love,” that makes sense.

But Aspen won’t have the races. The World Championships have snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom all to themselves. Two-time Olympic snowboardcross champion Seth Wescott is on the U.S. team along with 45-year-old Lynn Ott. Multiple-time world champion Lindsey Jacobellis is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in last year’s X Games.

The other Oly-related events to watch in Aspen: freestyle skiing’s skicross, slopestyle and half/superpipe. Yes, they’re adding a lot of the X events in Sochi.

BOBSLED/SKELETON

Actually just bobsled this week, the Zweierbob Frauen and Zweierbob Manner. There is a Team Wettkampf on Sonntag, so maybe I should translate the official site or check the FIBT site for a full preview and timetable — ah, that’s the bobsled/skeleton team event.

Switzerland’s Beat Hefti is the favorite on home ice, particularly here at St. Moritz, the only natural ice track in the world. Some of its idiosyncrasies are in this fun video, where you can see how it’s carved out of the snow instead of built up like other bobsled runs:

Defending champion Steven Holcomb had a great start to the two-man season but has dropped off considerably over the last two months. The U.S. women have bounced on and off the podium — Elana Meyers is third in the World Cup, Jamie Greubel fifth and Jazmine Fenlator eighth.

The USA also is the defending team champion.

Lolo Jones? Nope, not on the U.S. team for this one. She has done pretty well in her races and kept her sense of humor after a crash:

FIGURE SKATING

No Evan Lysacek, no Johnny Weir, no problem. For your U.S. Championships viewing pleasure, check the TV schedule; for your amusement, keep these predictions in mind:

Men: Jeremy Abbott, Ross Miner, Richard Dornbush

Women: Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu, Gracie Gold (yes, Christina Gao had better Grand Prix results, but Gold has the higher score)

Pairs: Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir, Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim, Tiffany Vise/Don Baldwin (defending champ Caydee Denney/John Coughlin pair is out injured)

Dance: Meryl White/Charlie Davis, Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani, Madison Chock/Evan Bates

SPEEDSKATING

World Sprint Championships, the least interesting of the three championships the long-trackers hold each year but a fun event to catch if you happen to be in Salt Lake City this weekend.

Monday Myriad: Bye-bye, Beckham

Admit it. You never thought David Beckham would be here as long as he was.

When I spoke with him in 2008, a year into the “experiment,” he was saying all the right things. Then over the years, he stuck with the Galaxy but had trouble convincing fans of his commitment to the team.

But in 2011, the last year of his original contract, he once again won over the fans (and maybe teammates). Winning MLS Cup didn’t hurt. And then he signed a two-year extension.

I can imagine fans clamoring for Grant Wahl to write Part 2 of The Beckham Experiment. But at this point, is there any doubt that the experiment worked? MLS is in infinitely better shape today than it was in 2007, and while plenty of other factors are at play (Seattle, other expansion, other business deals), Beckham’s presence surely has helped.

Elsewhere in myriad sports …

MLS: Beckham’s Galaxy held off the Sounders on what Taylor Twellman insists was a legit handball call. And the Dynamo sprayed beer all over their locker room at RFK Stadium.

The waiver draft gave Real Salt Lake another Duke alum.

Premier League: Tactics man Jonathan Wilson wonders if West Brom’s decision to split their management jobs between two people instead of one All-Encompassing Man of Total Power is paving the way for a prolonged stay in the top flight.

Field hockey: Should North Carolina’s seniors be disappointed with only one title out of their four appearances in the final? Or was Princeton due?

Chess: Just call the Kosintsevas the Williams sisters of chess. Nadezhda beat Tatiana in the women’s world championship. She’s the only Russian in the quarterfinals. China has three.

Wrestling: Good showing for Greco-Roman Americans.

Figure skating: Fairfax County’s own Ashley Wagner is two-for-two on the Grand Prix circuit after her Trophee Bompard win in France, ensuring a U.S. presence at the Finals. Christina Gao has a spot in the top six in the standings, with fellow Americans Agnes Zawadzki and Mirai Nagasu among those who can knock her out this weekend. It’s a safe bet Meryl Davis and Charlie White will get there in ice dance. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin might make it in pairs.

Jeremy Abbott, second in France, is clinging to a spot in the top six of the men’s standings (note all the guys with 15, 13 and 11 points who are competing in Japan).

Speedskating: U.S. top-five finishes in the World Cup opener in Heerenveen, Netherlands:

– Heather Richardson, 1st, 1,000
– Heather Richardson, 2nd, 500 and 2nd, 500. Yes, they raced that distance twice.

That is all. Didn’t see Shani Davis in the results.

Bobsled/skeleton: Huge U.S. weekend. Steven Holcomb was first in two-man and second in four-man. And Katie Uhlaender won the women’s skeleton.

Cody Butner and Chuck Berkeley took second behind Holcomb and Steve Langton in the two-man.

The U.S. women’s bobsledders were fourth, fifth and eighth. Olympic track and fieldsters Lolo Jones and Tianna Madison had the week off.

More Olympic sports: Good results for the U.S. field hockey men and a few other athletes; see the roundup.

MMA: GSP beat up Condit, Tom Lawlor got robbed, and strikes to the back of the head are still illegal.

In Bellator, Marcin Held held a toe hold … OK, that’s awful. Anyway, Held got Rich Clementi to tap to a toe hold and Dave Jansen won a split decision over Ricardo Tirloni in the lightweight semifinals. Also, Marlon Sandro beat TUF alum Dustin Neace. Remember the fight where Akira tapped but said he didn’t? That was Neace.

Champions League tomorrow!

Monday Myriad: U.S. athletes slide well

Our sleds are better than yours.

You may have heard Lolo Jones got second in her World Cup bobsled debut with driver Jazmine Fenlator, but U.S. success went farther than that. Elana Meyers and Tianna Madison, the latter also a track and field Olympian, took third.

The men weren’t bad, either. Steven Holcomb/Steve Langton and Cory Butner/Chuck Berkeley finished 1-2 in the World Cup two-man opener. Holcomb was second in the four-man, with Nick Cunningham taking third in just his third World Cup race.

The skeleton crew had a few top-fives: John Daly and Kyle Tress 4-5 in the men’s race; slider/weightlifter Katie Uhlaender fifth in the women’s race with the best time of the third run.

Figure skating

Gracie Gold at Skate Canada last month: 151.57 points, seventh place.

Gracie Gold at the Rostelecom Cup over the weekend: 175.03, second place. Just 2.16 out of first. That’s what skating insiders would call “an improvement.”

Agnes Zawadzki also had a bit of an improvement, posting a personal-best 166.61 for third place.

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin also reached the podium, finishing third in pairs. Ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani were fourth.

The men didn’t do quite as well. Johnny Weir had a rough time in the short program, then withdrew. Richard Dornbush was sixth.

Alpine skiing

Well she’s … speedy and 17! Our U.S. ski-slalom queen!

Yes, she’s far too young to get that Stray Cats reference, but Mikaela Schifrin was on the World Cup podium this weekend, finishing third in a slalom somewhere near the North Pole. Ted Ligety was 13th in the men’s race.

Wrestling

Big win for Tervel Diagnev over Russia’s Magomedgadzhi Nurasulov, who scored less than 0.05 points for every letter in his name, at the New York Athletic Club Invitational. Austin Trotman also beat one of the invited Russians and was named outstanding wrestler of the meet.

Basketball

Ready for a World Cup that won’t be sullied by the Netherlands’ negativity? Basketball is moving its world championship to soccer’s off-years and rebranding it as a World Cup. Better than World Series, at least.

Monday Myriad: Ligety Ligety Ligety

Let’s rush out this wrapup before the power runs out:

Alpine skiing: The time it takes you to read this sentence is Ted Ligety’s margin of victory (2.75 seconds) in the season-opening World Cup giant slalom on the big glacier in Solden, Austria, the traditional opener of the World Cup season in which fans celebrate the first snows of the Alps, putting away for a moment their concerns about the state of the climate and the European economy, which continues to be plagued by crippling debt in a few countries while Germany, a traditional power in winter sports, ponders the fate of the Euro, which has never been fully supported in some portions of the British aristocracy, which was also concerned that Lindsey Vonn missed a gate and didn’t finish the opening women’s race, along with Julia Mancuso, whose mishap you can read about here.

Figure skating: Spain’s Javier Fernandez upset Canada’s Patrick Chan to win Skate Canada. Depending on your point of view, that’s either an inspiring first Grand Prix win for Spain or signs of trouble with one of Canada’s star athletes. American Ross Miner bounced back after a rough short program to finish fifth.

Better news for Canadian women: Kaetlyn Osmond edged Japan’s Akiko Suzuki by 1.29 points to win. Americans Gracie Gold and Caroline Zhang were seventh and ninth.

The U.S. pairs were the last two. The USA’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue were fifth in the ice dance, predictably won by Canadian greats Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

But if you want to look ahead to the Big Ice Dance Throwdown and compare scores, Virtue/Moir won Skate Canada with 169.41; the USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White won Skate America with 176.28.

Short-track speedskating: J.R. Celski was second in the 1,500 meters and fourth in the 1,000, and the U.S. men finished third in the relay in an otherwise dreary World Cup weekend for American skaters in Montreal.

Bobsled/luge/skeleton: Wikipedia currently lists 17 current sliding tracks in the world, with two more planned. It’s about to be 16. The Torino 2006 track will be dismantled.

Oh, it was scheduled to host a World Cup luge stop in December? Too bad.

Shooting: Jason Parker won the World Cup Final in men’s three-position.

Beach volleyball: Jen Kessy and April Ross won in Thailand.

 

Bobsled: The case for Lolo Jones

Updated with Hyleas Fountain news

Perhaps I’m being paranoid in thinking people are going to gripe about the news that Lolo Jones has made the U.S. team for the upcoming World Cup bobsled season.

Let’s check Twitter and collect all the insane reaction, shall we?

OK, that’s funny.

Yes, that’s true.

http://twitter.com/TheDon_D/status/261453438603378688

And most of the other reaction has been either a simple “congratulations” or a weak reference to Cool Runnings. Maybe the crazies on Twitter aren’t morning people.

So maybe this is a non-controversy. But just in case people are skeptical about Jones’ inclusion on the World Cup roster, let’s take a closer look.

Here’s the existing roster listed on the USA Bobsled and Skeleton site:

Drivers:
– Elana Meyers (2012 World Championship bronze; as push athlete, won 2010 Olympic bronze),
– Jazmine Fenlator (one full year on World Cup)
Bree Schaaf (2010 Olympian, 5th place)

Push athletes:
– Emily Azevedo (2010 Olympian, 5th place)
– Katie Eberling (2012 World Championship bronze)
– Ingrid Marcum (bobsledder/weightlifter in mid-30s)
– Brittany Reinbolt (football player — yes, American football — with little experience)
Hillary Werth (not much experience)

Last season, a few others appeared on the World Cup circuit — drivers Jamie Greubel and Megan Hill, along with push athletes Ida Bernstein and Nicole Vogt. But typically, USA I and USA II were some combination of Meyers, Schaaf, Azevedo and Eberling. And they were the only U.S. athletes with top-10 finishes. The World Championship results: Meyers/Eberling 3rd, Fenlator/Marcum 10th, Schaaf/Azevedo.

So the team wasn’t really settled beyond the top two sleds. Marcum’s Twitter feed, with the great handle IronValkyrie, makes a vague reference to an injury, which likely accounts for her absence from the selection process this fall.

The selection started with a push competition, where a few Olympic athletes gave it a try. The results, with returnees in bold and Olympic guests in bold italic:

1. Aja Evans 9.65 (4.84, 4.81); 2. Katie Eberling 9.78 (4.88, 4.94); 3. Cherrelle Garrett 9.99 (5.02, 4.97); 4. Hyleas Fountain 10.01 (5.00, 5.01); 5. Emily Azevedo 10.04 (5.01, 5.03); 5. Tianna Madison 10.04 (5.03, 5.01); 7. Lolo Jones 10.11 (5.07, 5.04); 7. Maureen Ajoku 10.11 (5.04, 5.07); 9. Tracey Stewart 10.13 (5.09, 5.04); 10. Kristi Koplin 10.15 (5.007, 5.08); 11. Ida Bernstein 10.18 (5.07, 5.11); 12. Brittany Reinbolt 10.30 (5.14, 5.16); 13. Nicole Vogt 10.66 (5.33, 5.33); 14. Katie Steingraber 10.73 (5.36, 5.37); 15. Micaela Damas 10.79 (5.39, 5.40); 16. Sinead Corley 10.84 (5.35, 5.49);

Those results might make you think these Olympians are picking up the sport rather quickly. Here’s what women’s bobsled coach Todd Hays, whom you might remember from past Olympic medal runs, had to say at the start competition:

It’s great to see talented athletes like this give back to their USA teammates. And it’s of course a great opportunity for a coach like me to test his recruitment skills by trying to get these athletes to commit to our sports. I’m not successful yet, but we’ll see if we can entice them to give it a try.

Fountain (@Hept_Chic) said she had fun, and she congratulated Jones this morning. But she wasn’t in the full selection races. (Update: Slight injury, apparently.) Madison and Jones were there, though Madison just rode as a fore-runner with driver Elana Meyers, who got a bye thanks to her World Championship results last year. Eberling also didn’t compete. The rest of the top nine from the push championships competed.

The first selection race results:

1. Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans 1:56.96 (58.50, 58.46); 2. Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones 1:57.01 (58.46, 58.55); 3. Bree Schaaf and Emily Azevedo 1:57.80 (58.82, 58.98); 4. Megan Hill and Maureen Ajoka 2:00.96 (1:00.36, 1:00.60); 5. Katelyn Kelly and Tracey Stewart 2:01.36 (1:00.79, 1:00.57);

Big gap there between the top three and the next two. And rookie push athlete Aja Evans was clearly legit.

Schaaf then decided she wasn’t fully fit after hip surgery. She’s heading back to rehab. That makes the driver selections rather easy, especially after the second selection race:

1. Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans 1:55.94 (57.56, 58.38); 2. Jazmine Fenlator and Cherrelle Garrett 1:55.99 (57.67, 58.32); 3. Katelyn Kelly and Tracey Stewart 1:59.49 (59.68, 59.81); 4. Megan Hill and Maureen Ajoka 1:59.50 (59.26, 1:00.24);

The World Cup team will have three drivers in three sleds, so with Schaaf out, it’s rather obvious: Meyers, Greubel, Fenlator.

Then they decided to take six push athletes. Eberling and Azevedo are the returnees with world or Olympic medals. Then there’s Evans, the rookie who left Lake Placid with a start record. Garrett, like Evans a former college track athlete, showed enough to get a look. And then two summer Olympians — Madison and Jones.

So what’s really going on here?

The USA’s results last year weren’t that great, and the team is still looking for the right mix of athletes. Like a national soccer team two years out from the World Cup, they’re experimenting.

And if you look at the selected athletes, you see Jones is far from a shoo-in for Sochi 2014. The USA will get three sleds — at most — in the Olympics. Eberling and Azevedo have the experience, and their results this fall have been good. Then Evans is the hotshot rookie. That leaves Jones, Madison and Garrett competing to push (pardon the pun) one of those athletes out of the top three.

The competition might go right up to the last weeks before Sochi, and what seems set in stone now might not be the case in a year. Remember Jean Racine and Jennifer Davidson, the dominant duo before Salt Lake 2002?

We’ll see if 2014 proves to be controversial as well. For now, it’s not. Lolo Jones is one of a handful of track and field athletes giving bobsled a shot, and she has shown enough potential to get a shot in international competition.

And if anyone sees it otherwise, please refer him or her to this post. If nothing else, maybe their eyes will glaze over reading through the results.