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

Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Maame Biney, J.R. Celski join U.S. Olympic short track team

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Maame Biney will become the second African-born athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics and the first black woman on a speed skating team.

J.R. Celski, a three-time medalist, is going to a third Winter Games.

Biney, Celski and Aaron Tran qualified in short track at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, after the 500m on Saturday.

The team is now at five skaters — John-Henry Krueger and Lana Gehring qualified on the first night Friday.

Three more skaters will qualify Sunday after 1000m races — two men and one woman.

One of Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Jessica Kooreman, the top U.S. women at the last two Olympics, is guaranteed to miss the PyeongChang team.

Neither could keep up with the 17-year-old Biney, who moved to the D.C. area from Ghana with her father at age 5, on Saturday.

Biney swept the 500m finals, taking leads from the start and holding off more experienced women. She actually fell — while celebrating after crossing the finish line in the last race.

Afterward, NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce told Biney that eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno believes Biney doesn’t know how good she is.

“People have been telling me that forever, and I think right now I’m kind of seeing it, but I feel like I have a long ways to go, but thanks Apolo,” said Biney, who won a junior world championships bronze medal last season.

Celski did not win the men’s 500m, where he is the world-record holder. Krueger did, with Tran in second.

But the fact that Krueger finished in the top two in Friday’s 1500m and the 500m means that Celski gets on the team via his second-place finish in the 1500m.

Celski won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics and another relay silver in Sochi.

He took a full season off after Sochi — undergoing hip surgery — and overcame further knee and back injuries the last two years to return to the World Cup podium this season.

Celski is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal this season (a bronze) in 24 total races.

Celski won’t be able to race the 500m in PyeongChang if Thomas Hong makes the Olympic team on Sunday.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic short track skater gets 4-year doping ban

U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 6:45-8 p.m. 1500m rounds STREAM LINK
8:30-10 p.m. 1500m finals NBCSN | STREAM LINK
Saturday 12-1:45 p.m. 500m rounds STREAM LINK
2:30-4 p.m. 500m finals NBC | STREAM LINK
Sunday 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 1000m rounds STREAM LINK
1-3 p.m. 1000m finals NBC | STREAM LINK