Shaun White
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Shaun White drops slopestyle, adds Winter X Games, continues Air + Style

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Shaun White plans to qualify in one event, not two, for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The 2006 and 2010 Olympic halfpipe champion has dropped slopestyle from his repertoire and doesn’t think he’ll re-add it before the Winter Games in PyeongChang, which start in 400 days.

Remember, White tried to compete in both halfpipe and slopestyle at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He withdrew from slopestyle on the eve of the Games and then finished fourth in halfpipe.

White competed in one slopestyle contest since Sochi, on March 4, and finished last.

“Slopestyle is just really not something I’m as interested in right now,” White said Thursday. “At the Olympics last time around, trying to do slope and halfpipe was, now looking back, I feel like one of the reasons why things maybe didn’t go as well for either. It’s hard to do both.

“It was just a struggle. I was learning, like, one trick in the slopestyle, then panicking and going over to the halfpipe and trying to learn a trick there. And then forgetting the trick I just learned on the [slopestyle] jumps. So I had to go back. It was just too much. I’m thinking, for me, and everything right now, what I want to do for my career to compete in all these things, slopestyle just doesn’t make sense.”

Also Thursday, White said he will return to the Winter X Games later this month, after controversially missing last year’s event.

“There was just, I don’t what you’d call it, maybe a miscommunication [last year],” White said, laughing. “We both realized it’s a contest, and the world’s best will be there, and I want to compete. That’s kind of all there is to it.”

It’s part of a busy season for White, who again will put on an Air + Style event in his native Los Angeles.

This year’s festival, set to include 30 snowboarders from 12 countries in addition to musical acts, is Feb. 18-19 at the LA Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

More Air + Style information is available here.

White doesn’t compete at Air + Style, but his contest schedule this winter also includes World Cup events in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., and at the South Korean Olympic venue in February, plus the U.S. Open in March.

It will be his busiest season since Sochi. White’s band has broken up, opening up time to focus on the sport (as well as lessons for piano and singing).

White has already competed once this season, but it was not memorable. He shockingly failed to make the final of the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain on Dec. 15.

There’s a good reason for that. White was coming off surgery.

In October, White was training in New Zealand when his troublesome left ankle started acting up. White has dealt with ankle problems since 2009 and decided to undergo surgery to make sure it wouldn’t hinder him on the road to PyeongChang.

He said he used Copper as a “test run” for his ankle, and with heavy snowfall and poor conditions, didn’t want to take any unnecessary risk.

White hopes 2018 will not mark his final Olympics. He wants to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, since skateboarding is being added to that Olympic program. White won X Games vert titles in 2007 and 2011, but the 2020 Olympic format is a combination of park and street.

VIDEO: 15-year-old Shaun White just misses 2002 Olympics

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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