Four Dew Tour events to watch Thursday

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With the Sochi Games a mere 14 months away, some of the top Olympics snow sports athletes are in Breckenridge, Colo. for the Dew Tour this week to start preparing their runs for the world’s biggest stage. Here are four events you shouldn’t miss on Thursday. (And don’t worry, you can catch them from your work desk here on NBCSports.com)

Men’s Freeski Superpipe Semi-Final (10 a.m.)

Kevin Rolland has been the undisputed champ of the pipe over the past few years, winning gold at the 2010 and 2011 X-Games and sweeping the 2011 Dew tour. The 23-year-old Frenchman was also an ambassador for the 2012 Innsbruck Youth Olympics, mentoring younger athletes along with Lindsey Vonn.

Defending X-Games champion David Wise and 2010 Breckenridge winner Simon Dumont were set to headline the American contingent. The latter underwent wrist surgery Wednesday after suffering an injury in practice and will not compete. Gus Kenworthy, Tucker Perkins and Tanner Hall are three other Americans to watch.

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle Semi-Final (Noon)
Lake Tahoe native Jamie Anderson staked her claim as the best American slopstyle rider by winning three events in 2012, including gold at the X Games. Still just 22, she has a good chance of making it to Sochi.

Canadian Spencer O’Brien won the Dew Tour event in 2012 and is looking to repeat this season. Great Britain’s Jenny Jones and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi are names you’ll likely hear again come 2014.

Men’s Snowboard Superpipe Semi-Finals (2:30 p.m.)
Shaun White, Louie Vito, and Scotty Lago – the three top names in the sport – are all set to compete at Dew Tour. Joining the American trio will be the Mitriani brothers (Luke and Jack) and California native Greg Bretz.

Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov – the 24-year-old who has two X Games silver medals to his name – enters Dew Tour 2012 as a legitimate podium threat. Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen should also be in the mix. Kohei Kudo and Kazuhiro Kokubo each give the Japanese an outside shot at making the top 3.

Men’s Freeski Big Air Finals (5:30 p.m.)
Nick Goepper is a name to stash in the back pocket. The Lawrenceburg, Ind. native has been a consistent slopestyle skier since 2011, and at just 18, has plenty of room for growth. Tom Wallisch, 25, has struggled in the past during Big Air (similar to aerials), but will be one to watch in anticipation of the slopestyle event.

The favorite here should be Breckenridge native Bobby Brown, who has two X-Games gold medals to his name. Look for the 21-year-old to put on a show in front of his hometown crowd.

All Times Mountain

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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