Big Air

U.S. wants to add big air, team snowboard cross to Olympics

Leave a comment

More snowboarding events could be added to the Olympics, if a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association proposal succeeds.

The USSA confirmed it wants to add men’s and women’s big air and men’s and women’s team snowboard cross to the Winter Olympic program, and will make the formal proposal at an International Ski Federation (FIS) meeting next week. If the FIS approves, it will take the proposal to the International Olympic Committee.

“The goal is to continue to push forward the most progressive and most relevant sports in snowboarding and skiing,” USSA snowboarding and freeskiing director Jeremy Forster told The Associated Press.

Halfpipe and Alpine snowboarding debuted at the 1998 Olympics. Snowboard cross was added in 2006, and slopestyle this year. The U.S. swept the slopestyle gold medals in Sochi as part of a highly successful Olympics in freestyle skiing and snowboarding for Americans.

“We need to preserve our history. It’s very important,” IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi told reporters in Sochi in February. “At the same time, we have to remain relevant and make sure that we capture a new audience as well.

“I have one 11-year-old, and I can tell you he is following [slopestyle champion] Sage [Kotsenburg] and the others in our new events keenly, in front of the TV, but also consuming on the Internet.”

Men’s big air — but not women’s — has been part of the International Ski Federation’s World Championships since 2003, with Finland dominating, though Canada and the U.S. have fared well at the Winter X Games, which also only have a men’s event.

In big air, snowboarders do tricks off ramps similar to those on slopestyle courses.

A team snowboard cross event would be similar to the luge team relay that debuted at the Sochi Olympics. Just like an individual snowboard cross event, several riders from different nations would race down a course. When a rider from a nation crosses the finish line, the starting gate would open for the next rider from that nation at the top of the course, according to the AP.

For now, the USSA thought is to have separate men’s and women’s snowboard cross team events but hope a mixed-gender event could be an additional option in the future.

Four-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier switches to Mexico

Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Phelps: I don’t know what to tell my son about doping

World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

Leave a comment

Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance | TV schedule

The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashley Wagner knows pressure’s on her at worlds