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Elena Hight wins her first X Games gold medal

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Elena Hight has been a mainstay on the Winter X Games circuit, collecting three silver medals and two bronze medals since making her debut at just 13 years old in 2003.

14 years later, she finally won her first gold medal in the women’s snowboard halfpipe final Saturday night in Aspen, Colo.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Hight said, shaking her head.

China’s Xeutong Cai finished second, followed by American Chloe Kim.

Kim entered as the pre-race favorite, having not lost on the halfpipe in over a year. But the 16-year-old fell early in her first run, just moments after competition was interrupted for about 10 minutes when half of the course’s floodlights shut off. Television commentators described her second and final run as “probably the tamest run we have ever seen from Chloe in an X Games.”

It was the first time that Kim, who was too young to compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics, failed to win a gold medal in her four X Games starts.

Earlier on Saturday, 19-year-old American Julia Marino claimed the women’s snowboard slopestyle gold medal. She became the first X Games rookie since 2000 to win two medals, after earning the snowboard big air bronze medal on Thursday.

“I don’t think I could ask for a better contest,” Marino said.

Marino bested fellow American Jamie Anderson, the 2014 Olympic champion and most decorated rider in X Games slopestyle history with 12 medals. Great Britain’s Katie Ormerod finished third.

Americans swept the men’s ski slopestyle podium at the Sochi Games, where the event was making its Olympic debut. But it was McRae Williams, after not even making the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, who stood on the podium in Aspen.

Williams earned the silver medal, behind Norway’s Oystein Braaten and ahead of Canada’s Alex Beaulieu-Marchand.

Braaten wiped out on his first run, scoring 8.66 points, the lowest of the 12 skiers in the finals. But the winner was determined based on a skier’s best score in either of the two final runs, and Braaten responded with a score of 94.33 points on his second run.

“I was so scared after my first run because I messed up a trick I’ve been landing all week,” Braaten admitted.

2014 Olympic champion Joss Christensen finished sixth, while 2014 Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy was 10th and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Nick Goepper was 11th. Goepper, who won gold at every X Games from 2013-2015, is the only skier with multiple wins in the event at the last 14 X Games.

Kenworthy was competing less than 15 hours after finishing 10th in the ski halfpipe final.

MORE: Aaron Blunck wins surprise gold in crash-filled ski halfpipe

Alina Zagitova hands Yevgenia Medvedeva first loss in 2 years

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva is no longer the clear favorite in the Winter Olympics’ marquee event.

The two-time world champion lost for the first time in more than two years, upset by training partner Alina Zagitova at the European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

Italian Carolina Kostner earned bronze.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, set personal bests in the short program and free skate and totaled 238.24 points. She beat Medvedeva by 5.38 points.

Medvedeva, in her first competition since November due to a broken foot, fully rotated all of her jumps Saturday, but Zagitova was cleaner. She also stumbled out of a double Axel in her short program.

“I did not feel the injury,” Medvedeva said after the short program, according to the International Skating Union. “Everything has healed.”

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

Zagitova was born three months after the Salt Lake City Olympics and without a name for her first year. Her parents eventually decided on Alina after watching Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva on TV.

She had been working to this point in her first senior international season. She swept her two fall Grand Prix starts, then won the Grand Prix Final in December, all without Medvedeva in the field.

On Saturday, she landed all of her jumps (including seven triples) in the second half of her program for 10 percent bonuses. It’s the type of technical content layout ambitious enough to challenge Medvedeva.

“I think that Zhenia [Medvedeva] is her role model in life, in behavior, in her way to work,” shared coach Eteri Tutberidze said last year, according to Goldenskate.com. “Alina absolutely tries to copy her way to work, the amount of work and she doesn’t stop. This helps. I can sometimes show Zhenia and say, ‘Look how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look how Zhenia is working.’”

Medvedeva, whose last defeat was in November 2015, also won both of her Grand Prix starts, posting the world’s highest scores this season, while dealing with foot pain.

She underwent an MRI that revealed a crack, then withdrew from the Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships in December. She is still expected to be on the Olympic Athlete from Russia team in PyeongChang.

Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who made her Europeans debut in 2003, fell on her opening triple Lutz and landed just three triple jumps Saturday.

She hung on to win a medal at her 11th straight European Championships.

Russian Maria Sotskova, the Grand Prix Final silver medalist, fell on her last triple jump, a Lutz, among other landing troubles. She placed fourth.

Those four skaters are the Olympic medal contenders along with Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman and Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto.

U.S. champion Bradie Tennell ranks 14th in the world this season.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Julia Marino, Hailey Langland qualify for Olympics; U.S. sweeps possible

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The addition of snowboard big air to the Olympics next month means Jamie AndersonJulia Marino and Hailey Langland have two chances for a U.S. podium sweep in PyeongChang.

Marino and Langland qualified for the U.S. big air and slopestyle team Saturday, joining the already qualified Anderson, who won slopestyle’s debut in Sochi.

Anderson, Marino and Langland swept the podium in that order at the last Olympic qualifier in slopestyle in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

They also made up three of the top four riders at the 2017 X Games big air and slopestyle.

The U.S. has never swept the Winter Olympic medals in a women’s event but could do so in big air, slopestyle and even snowboard halfpipe in PyeongChang.

MORE: U.S. Olympic roster

While Anderson is the veteran, an X Games medalist 11 of the last 12 years, Marino and Langland represent the new wave of U.S. big air and slopestyle riders.

Marino, a 20-year-old from Connecticut who trains in Quebec, earned slopestyle and big air medals at X Games Aspen and Oslo last year in her debuts at those events.

They included slopestyle gold in Aspen over Anderson.

Langland, a 17-year-old from Southern California who plays the ukulele, guitar and piano, won the first X Games women’s big air title last year and took bronze in slopestyle in 2016.

Born in 2000, she is younger than any previous female Olympic snowboarding medalist.

“She reminds me of a younger me,” Anderson said, according to NBC Olympic Research.

The U.S. could add a fourth woman to the big air/slopestyle team, likely either Jessika Jenson or Ty Walker, a pair of 2014 Olympians in slopestyle.

The U.S. men are not as strong internationally in big air and slopestyle, where the Olympic favorites hail from Canada and Norway.

Kyle Mack won the last qualifier Saturday — without the top international riders in the field — to clinch the third and last automatic spot on the men’s big air/slopestyle team.

Chris Corning and Red Gerard previously qualified for PyeongChang. A fourth rider can be added via discretionary selection.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through five of five events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED
1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Kyle Mack — 1,800* QUALIFIED

4. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,800* QUALIFIED
3. Hailey Langland — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire field.

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