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Aaron Blunck wins surprise gold in crash-filled ski halfpipe

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Television commentators described the Aspen X Games ski halfpipe as “the most infamous pipe in the sport.” And for good reason.

In Friday night’s first run, Canada’s Noah Bowman was the only skier out of 11 to land cleanly. In the second run, just American Aaron Blunck and Miguel Porteous of New Zealand stayed upright.

Blunck’s second-run score was good enough to earn him the gold medal, followed by Porteous and Bowman.

“It’s just hard conditions out here for everyone,” Blunck, who finished seventh at the Sochi Games as a 17-year-old, said to reporters afterwards. “It was really icy and it was really fast, so with that everybody was going so big, which makes them get a little bit closer to the deck.”

The 2014 Winter Olympic medalists struggled in the Aspen ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic champion David Wise finished last, while 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Kevin Rolland of France was eighth. 2014 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy was 10th, one spot ahead of Wise.

Earlier on Friday, the 2014 Olympic medalists claimed the top three spots in women’s ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic runner-up Marie Martinod of France won X Games gold. At 32, she was the oldest skier in the competition. After her first run, she removed her gloves to show the message “#WOMEN” written in permanent marker on her hands.

Ayana Onozuka, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist from Japan, finished second, followed by 2014 Olympic champion Maddie Bowman of the United States. Three U.S. skiers—Devin Logan, Brita Sigourney and Annalisa Drew—claimed the three spots after Bowman.

Max Parrot successfully defended his X Games gold medal in men’s snowboard big air. Marcus Kleveland of Norway finished second, followed by Canada’s Mark McMorris.

It was the 12th medal of McMorris’ decorated X Games career. McMorris has missed the podium just once in his 13 X Games starts—when he finished fourth in big air in 2011.

MORE: Shaun White has worst X Games finish since 2000

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir recall their childhood dating breakup (video)

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Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir discussed their brief dating relationship early on in their ice-dance partnership in an interview on “Ellen” published Tuesday.

No, they are not currently dating, as was reported when they won their second Olympic ice dance title in PyeongChang.

“If we were, we would announce it here,” Virtue said on “Ellen.”

“We did date,” Moir said, adding jokingly, “In order to advance our partnership, we had to put the hot-and-heavy relationship on the side.”

“Which meant you had to break up with me,” Virtue said.

“I broke up with Tessa, and none of my friends have let me live that down since,” Moir said.

So they did date.

“If you can call it that,” Moir said. “I think mostly our families were laughing at us. They kind of set us up. It was the same thing, actually, when we started ice dancing. They just kind of us put us together. I think it was for their amusement. Then, all of a sudden, 20 years later we’re still doing it, so joke’s on them.”

Virtue and Moir discussed their brief dating period in their 2011 book, Tessa and Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold:

“My sister and Scott’s cousin decided it would be kind of cute if we were ‘dating,'” Tessa says. “And I liked Scott. I don’t know if he liked me, but we just went along with it.”

“Were we not the hot topic by week four, though?” Scott asks rhetorically. “We were the big new couple on campus. We ‘dated’ for eight months. Why do I remember that? Because eight months is a long time for eight and ten years old. We probably only had two phone conversations and I remember my brothers talking me through the phone call with her, I was so nervous. We’d sit there and not say anything. It was a cool thing to do: phone and talk to each other.”

“Dating” was a little strong. It was the summer of 1997, and heading into grades there and five they were too young for even puppy love, so it was just a label that others attached to them, mostly for their own amusement.

Tessa talked about Scott during school hours at Stoneybrook Public School, but when Scott’s friends at Oxbow Public School found out about Tessa, he somehow felt he had to “end” it. His friends called Tessa and quickly handed the phone back to Scott, who blurted, “I don’t want to go out with you any more,” then hung up.

And although for the next dozen years every reporter and skating fan, and eventually, millions of TV viewers, tried to link them as boyfriend and girlfriend, that has been the extend of their romantic history.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

Two Italian cities discuss possible Winter Olympic bid

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ROME (AP) — Milan and Turin are in discussions with the Italian Olympic Committee about a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino sent a letter of interest to CONI on Sunday despite divisions in her own party, the populist 5-Star Movement, on a candidacy. Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala met with CONI president Giovanni Malago on Monday.

“I think Milan has everything required but we won’t do anything without a government and its approval,” Sala said Tuesday.

Italy awaits a new government in the next few weeks following a national election this month that yielded no clear majority.

CONI is still recovering from its dropped Rome bid for the 2024 Summer Games, which ended following staunch opposition from Mayor Virginia Raggi, who also represents the 5-Star Movement.

Among the cities which have shown preliminary interest for 2026: Calgary, Canada; Sion, Switzerland; and Sapporo, Japan.

Turin hosted the Winter Games in 2006. The 2026 host will be decided by the International Olympic Committee in Milan in September 2019.

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