Nick Goepper

Nick Goepper set for Sochi Olympics in ski slopestyle


Nick Goepper locked up a spot on the first U.S. Olympic Team in slopestyle skiing at the second Olympic selection event in Copper Mountain, Colo., on Saturday.

“It’s a dream come true,” Goepper said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “It’s super fun. The Olympics add a bit more pressure, but we’re just out here trying to get creative and have fun.”

Goepper, the rare freeskier out of Indiana, took second with 89.20 points in the first of his two runs. It held up until Norway’s Andreas Haartveit posted 92.80 late in the second run. Australian Russ Henshaw took third.

Goepper, the reigning Winter X Games champion, won in Breckenridge last week without ski poles due to a broken hand. He met U.S. Olympic Team selection criteria being the top American finisher in the first two Olympic selection events.

No American man other than Goepper has finished on the podium in either of the first two selection events. Ski slopestyle is making its Olympic debut.

Earlier, Canadian Dara Howell won the women’s ski slopestyle. No U.S. women have reached Olympic selection criteria yet, but four women are halfway there through two of five events.

Darian Stevens and Grete Eliassen were second and third behind Howell. Howell won with an 87.60 second run, bettering Stevens’ 85.40 and Eliassen’s 83.40.

Maggie Voisin, who was third last week on her 15th birthday, was fourth Saturday with 80.00 points. Devin Logan, who won last week, did not reach the finals in Copper Mountain.

Up to three slopestyle skiers per gender who have had two top-three results over five Olympic selection events will be named to the Olympic team. If more than three athletes, in either gender, have had two top-three results, tiebreaker rankings come into play.

A skier’s best two results will be combined to create tiebreaker rankings. The next Olympic selection event for slopestyle skiing is in Breckenridge in January.

Here are the Olympic selection tiebreaker ranking standings in ski slopestyle after two of five selection events, only counting those with top-three results:

Men’s Ski Slopestyle
1. Nick Goepper — 200 (two top-three results)

Women’s Ski Slopestyle
1. Maggie Voisin — 140
2. Devin Logan — 136
2. Darian Stevens — 136
4. Grete Eliassen — 102

Sigourney, Blunck win ski halfpipe at Copper

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.

“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.

Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.

Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.

“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”

Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.

Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.

“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named