Shaun White

Shaun White, Kelly Clark top snowboarding halfpipe at Grand Prix Mammoth

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The thirty-somethings with five Olympic medals between them held off the field to win gold at the U.S. Grand Prix snowboarding halfpipe competition in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Shaun White proved he’s back in winning shape after undergoing ankle surgery in the fall. Unable to put together a clean run at last weekend’s X Games, he finished 11th of 12 riders. White looked much more comfortable today at his home mountain of Mammoth, taking the Grand Prix title with a score of 94.75. It was his first Grand Prix victory in just over four years.

“I didn’t have the nicest contest at X (Games),” White told U.S. Snowboarding, so I was excited to come here and be the normal me—put some runs down.

White, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is looking to make his fourth Olympic team next year. He finished fourth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Watch Shaun White, at age 15, just miss 2002 Olympic team

Joining White on the podium to complete an American sweep were Ryan Wachendorfer, making his first Grand Prix podium at 21 years old, and Louie Vito, a 2010 Olympian.

In the women’s snowboarding halfpipe competition, 33-year-old Kelly Clark scored 91.75 to place first, an improvement on her fourth-place showing at the X Games. The Grand Prix in Mammoth is just her third competition after undergoing hip surgery. Clark  is a four-time Olympian with one gold and two bronze medals.

The lone non-American to make the snowboarding halfpipe this weekend was Japan’s Haruna Matsumoto, who finished second behind Clark. In third was the U.S.’ Hannah Teter, a two-time Olympic medalist in the event.

Kelly, Matsumoto and Teter were the only women able to compete in the final. The three other qualified riders, including teenage phenom Chloe Kim, had to leave the competition before the windy weather abated and the final could be contested. Kim finished fourth based on her qualification scores.

“I’m really happy to put down a run like I did today,” Clark said. “I think regardless of the circumstances or how many people are in the event you want to do the run you came to do and that’s what I was able to put down today.”

MORE: Double sweep for U.S. men and women in snowboard slopestyle at Mammoth Grand Prix

 

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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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics

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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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics