Nick Goepper

Nick Goepper wins Dew Tour ski slopestyle without poles (video)

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No ski poles, no problem.

Nick Goepper, an unlikely freeskier from Indiana, won the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships ski slopestyle to take an early lead in what should be a very competitive race to make the first U.S. Olympic Team in the event.

Goepper, the reigning Winter X Games champion, scored 93.00 points in the first of two final runs without poles because of a broken hand. It held up to win despite strong second runs from international stars in Breckenridge, Colo., on Sunday.

“I was just happy that I made it over all the jumps,” Goepper told NBC after his first run. “It’s pretty windy. … I’ll be back with the poles, I don’t know, in a couple weeks.”

Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand took second with a 91.20-point second run. Australian Russ Henshaw was third.

Men’s ski slopestyle might be the toughest U.S. Olympic freeskiing team to make. Every World Championship and X Games gold medal since 2010 has gone to an American.

2010 X Games champion Bobby Brown was fourth, followed by the last two world champions, Tom Wallisch and Alex Schlopy, in fifth and seventh, respectively.

Schlopy is the son of two-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Holly Flanders and former Buffalo Bills kicker Todd Schlopy. He’s also the cousin of three-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Erik Schlopy, who is married to four-time U.S. Olympic swimming medalist Summer Sanders.

Breckenridge marked the first of five Olympic selection events for snowboarding and freeskiing. The next four events are on the U.S. Grand Prix schedule — Copper Mountain, Colo., next weekend, followed by Northstar, Calif., Park City, Utah, and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

The five events will determine Olympians in snowboard halfpipe and the new Olympic events of snowboard slopestyle and ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle. The Olympic rosters are expected to be announced Jan. 22.

The overall Olympic qualification standings will be determined by the two best results for an athlete over the selection events. No more than four athletes can make the U.S. Olympic Team per event. It’s possible fewer than four will be named for some events.

“This takes off, I’d say, half the pressure [of making the Olympic team],” Goepper said on NBC. “The ideal goal is to get two podiums.”

Breckenridge Ski Slopestyle
1. Nick Goepper (USA) 93.00
2. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) 91.20
3. Russ Henshaw (AUS) 90.00
4. Bobby Brown (USA) 89.80
5. Tom Wallisch (USA) 89.20
7. Alex Schlopy (USA) 85.60

Two U.S. halfpipe skiers suffer serious injuries

Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

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Kobe Bryant announces retirement but remains in contention for Rio team

Kobe Bryant
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Veteran basketball player and 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire from professional basketball after the end of this season. However, ESPN reported that the chairman of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, said that Bryant “remains in contention for Team USA spot for Rio 2016.”

In the form of a poem titled “Dear Basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote:

This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

Bryant played on the U.S. national team from 2007 to 2012. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he scored 20 points in the gold medal game to win gold over Spain. He helped the U.S. men to gold again in 2012, then said that it would be his last Olympics.

But he’s changed his tune in recent months. Bryant told the Associated Press in November that he’d like a shot at another Olympics.

“I would like to play,” Bryant said. “I think it’d be awesome. A beautiful experience.”

If he were selected and won again, Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony would become the first U.S. male basketball players to win three gold Olympic medals.

In the AP interview Bryant spoke glowingly of his Olympic teammates. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” he said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”

He also said he believes he’d be an asset to the team, stating, “I feel like I can add value from a leadership perspective and a defensive perspective. I can still move extremely well defensively.”

Bryant’s age will likely be a concern, as his 38th birthday is just two days after the gold-medal game on August 21st, 2016.

Colangelo said that they will be looking at “all of our players” this season, and Bryant’s retirement announcement “doesn’t have any bearing” on whether he’d be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.

The 12 player team will be selected in June 2016.

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