Former world champion ski jumper Lindsey Van enjoyed her best performance of the season Sunday, finishing fifth in a World Cup event in Sapporo, Japan.
The Park City native was among three Americans in the top 15 — a strong performance for a group that is still without injured reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson.
Japan’s Sara Takanashi won for the sixth time in seven events on the World Cup tour this season, but Van climbed up from 14th place after her first jump with a 93-meter leap on her second.
"The timing was better," she said, "and I was just focusing on one jump at a time."
Teammate Jessica Jerome finished seventh, while Alissa Johnson soared to 14th place. Jerome already has locked up a spot for the Sochi Olympics, while the other women are still competing for the other two or three spots that will be available.
The women will jump next weekend in Zao, Japan, before returning home to Utah for the announcement of the Olympic team on Jan. 22.
World Cup bobsled
Bobsled driver Steven Holcomb continued his unexpected struggles on the World Cup circuit Sunday, when he finished just seventh in a four-man race in Switzerland — his fifth straight race off the podium following seven straight victories to start the season.
The Park City native is the defending Olympic champion in the four-man race, and has Alpine’s Chris Fogt as a push athlete in his new "Night Train 2" sled. But they finished in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 10.29 seconds, a vast 0.77 seconds behind winner Oskars Melbardis of Latvia.
In Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, Marie-Michele Gagnon ended a 30-year drought for Canadian women in World Cup combined events by earning her first victory. Gagnon was 1.37 seconds off the lead in 16th after the super-G portion but went ahead of the field after posting the second fastest time in the slalom run.
Gagnon finished in an overall 2 minutes, 5.55 seconds to beat second-place Michaela Kirchgasser of Austria by 0.32. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany trailed Gagnon by 0.39 in third.
Laurenne Ross (2:08.70) was the top American, placing 20th. Julia Mancuso missed a turn during the super-G and did not finish.
In Boston, Jeremy Abbott won his fourth U.S. figure skating title and all but locked up his second Olympic berth. Teenager Jason Brown was second Sunday. The Americans will send two men to the Sochi Games, and while U.S. Figure Skating officials will look at past performances in picking the team, they are unlikely to deviate from the standings.
Defending champion Max Aaron was third.
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