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

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross beat top-ranked Brazilians for first time

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil’s best beach volleyball team for the first time and extended the longest winning streak of their partnership in winning the Moscow Grand Slam on Sunday.

“That just shows our growth,” Ross said. “We’re still on the up and up.”

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, an Olympic silver medalist, beat Olympic qualifying top seed Larissa and Talita 22-20, 22-20 in the final for their third straight international title.

Walsh Jennings and Ross have now won 22 straight FIVB World Tour matches, the best run of their three-year parternship. Walsh Jennings last reached a streak this long from 2007 to 2010, when she won 78 straight international matches with Misty May-Treanor and Nicole Branagh, according to BVBInfo.com

The Americans had lost all three of their previous matches (one a one-set exhibition) versus Larissa and Talita:

Feb. 27, 2015 — 26-24 in Rio de Janeiro
Aug. 23, 2015 — 21-18, 21-16 in Long Beach, Calif.
March 20, 2016 — 22-20, 21-19 in Vitoria, Brazil

Larissa and Talita, seeking to become Brazil’s first Olympic women’s beach volleyball champions in 20 years, have won 12 of their 20 international tournaments since pairing in July 2014.

The FIVB World Tour continues in Hamburg, Germany, next week, the final event in Olympic qualifying. Walsh Jennings and Ross are expected to play there.

Walsh Jennings and Ross and Larissa and Talita are already qualified for the Rio Games.

MORE: Logan Tom continues volleyball career in Indonesia

Joe Kovacs goes wild after winning Pre Classic shot put (video)

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Joe Kovacs put together an incredible series of throws to win the Pre Classic shot put on Friday night, and he topped it off with perhaps an even more impressive celebration.

The World champion Kovacs, who is listed at 6 feet and 276 pounds, let out bellowing roars and a “Hell yeah!” after his final throw of 22.13 meters.

Kovacs threw farther with every throw in Eugene, Ore., on Friday night:

20.41
20.49
21.26
21.57 (farthest in the world this year)
21.66 (farthest in the world this year)
22.13 (farthest in the world this year)

Kovacs has come a long way in four years. He finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials with a then-personal-best throw of 21.08 meters. His last throw Friday night would have won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

MORE: Kovacs emerges from family tragedy, Olympic miss to world leader