Max Aaron

Max Aaron wins U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

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U.S. champion Max Aaron began his season with a win, but he has plenty of work ahead of him.

Aaron, 21, posted a total score of 239.21 to take the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City on Friday night. But his planned free skate with three quadruple jumps didn’t go smoothly.

Aaron popped his first into a double toe loop, put his hand down on a quad salchow and spun out of a landing on another quad salchow.

Still, it was easily enough to beat three other Americans in the absence of Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who pulled out of the event Monday.

Stephen Carriere (225.54), Josh Farris (206.56) and Grant Hochstein (191.91) followed Aaron in the standings (full results below). None landed a clean quad. Carriere, who was 10th at nationals, fell on a quad toe loop. Farris, the world junior champion, sat down a triple axel.

Gold, Davis/White lead after short programs

Aaron goes into the Olympic season as one of the top contenders to make the two-man Olympic team at nationals in Boston in January.

Lysacek hasn’t competed since the 2010 Olympics. U.S. silver and bronze medalists Ross Miner and Jeremy Abbott also did not compete in Salt Lake City.

Next up is Skate America in Detroit from Oct. 18-20. Aaron, Lysacek and 2012 U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon are the Americans entered there.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch won the pairs competition for the second straight year.

They extended a six-point lead from Thursday’s short program to win by 13 points over 2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin. Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were fourth at the World Championships in March.

2013 U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir fell from second after the short program into fourth behind another American pair, Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea.

It’s early, but Denney and Coughlin got an early boost going into the Olympic season. Two U.S. pairs teams will qualify for the Olympics at nationals in January.

Denney and Coughlin, Castelli and Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who were last Friday, are the U.S. teams entered in Skate America.

Men
1. Max Aaron (USA) 239.21
2. Stephen Carriere (USA) 225.54
3. Josh Farris (USA) 206.56
4. Grant Hochstein (USA) 191.91
5. Christopher Caluza (PHI) 185.33
6. Michael Christian Martinez (PHI) 183.04
7. Andrei Rogozine (CAN) 168.92
8. Stanislav Samohin (ISR) 163.71
9. Oleksii Bychenko (ISR) 162.71
10. Charles Pao (TPE) 95.18

Pairs
1. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) 201.30
2. Denney/Coughlin (USA) 188.47
3. Kayne/O’Shea (USA) 167.27
4. Castelli/Shnapir (USA) 165.91
5. Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN) 155.00
6. Davidovich/Krasnapolsky (ISR) 133.07
7. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 130.20

U.S. women’s figure skater has mime coach

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.