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Chloe Kim qualifies for U.S. Olympic snowboard team

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — In 2014, Chloe Kim ranked high enough to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in snowboard halfpipe, but she was too young to compete at the Winter Games.

Four years later, she’ll finally have the opportunity to represent the red, white and blue at the Olympics.

Kim won her second straight Olympic qualifier, which will secure her nomination to the U.S. halfpipe team. The 17-year-old, who is the only woman currently capable of landing back-to-back 1080s, is considered the gold medal favorite for PyeongChang 2018.

“It seems like a dream almost, and I’m trying to wake up,” Kim said of earning her spot on the Olympic team. “I think today when I get home, it’s going to sink in, and I’m probably going to cry.”

With the pressure of Olympic qualifying over with, Kim says that cleaning up her cab 1080s will be a primary focus as she prepares for PyeongChang.

Who will join Kim on the women’s halfpipe team remains up in the air, though Kelly Clark is in good shape after a third at the Copper Grand Prix and a second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, which hosted Friday’s qualifier.

The three-time Olympic medalist crashed on her first two runs in the final and needed to be checked out by the medical staff after hitting the deck on a frontside 1080 attempt on Run 2. With a bandage on her nose, she came back undeterred in Run 3, landed the frontside 1080 and got onto the podium.

“These are Olympic qualifying events, and me ending up in the middle of the pack isn’t really going to benefit me,” Clark said. “I have one shot, so I went for it.”

The men’s halfpipe competition produced a surprise winner in 19-year-old Jake Pates, who outdueled not just his own U.S. teammates but also a stacked field of international riders.

Pates came out firing on his third and final run, putting down a sequence of tricks that ended with a unique variation on the double McTwist 1260 made famous by Shaun White. Instead of doing a standard grab, Pates executed a tail grab on the trick that added extra difficulty and clearly caught the eye of the judges.

“That was a trick I’ve been wanting to do forever,” Pates said of the double McTwist, which he had never landed in a contest before. “Seriously, I saw that happen when I was, like, 8 years old. I saw that happen at X Games and it was crazy.”

According to Pates, it was just the fourth time he had ever landed the trick on snow.

With such a stacked group of riders on the U.S. team, Pates was mostly overlooked when it came to Olympic qualifying favorites. Now he’s suddenly in the discussion as a possible medal contender.

“I never thought in a million years I would have won this event today,” he said. “I just wanted to land that run, actually I’ve never done that before. I’ve been dreaming about that all week.”

Ben Ferguson, who was the top American at the first selection event, took a strong step toward making his first Olympic team as well by finishing third overall and second among Americans in Breckenridge. He and Pates will both be in position to potentially secure their spots on the team at the next qualifier.

“For every other American out there, there is another level of pressure we’ve got to deal with doing these [Olympic qualifiers],” Ferguson said afterward. “And for me, doing well in these last two has kind of pulled some of that pressure off and relieved a little bit of anxiety, and I can just focus on having fun more.”

Aside from helping to shape the U.S. Olympic team, the men’s halfpipe competition in Breckenridge also provided a showcase of international stars who will be in the mix for medals in PyeongChang.

Scotty James of Australia unveiled a new run which included back-to-back double cork 1260s and a switch backside 900. It was a very technical run which earned him a massive score and would have given him the victory were it not for Pates stepping it up at the very end.

Also standing out was Japan’s Ayumu Hirano. The Sochi silver medalist started his run off with a massive indy air before going into a difficult sequence of tricks that included a frontside double cork 1440 and frontside double cork 1260. He finished in fourth.

Absent from the men’s field was White, the two-time Olympic gold medalist. White was unable to put down a clean run amid snowy conditions during Thursday’s qualifying round and therefore failed to advance to the final.

Despite the disappointing result, White is still in good shape when it comes to Olympic qualifying. He was second among U.S. riders at the first selection event and still has two qualifying events left.

Up to three spots on the U.S. team for both men and women will be allocated through automatic qualification. In order to be eligible, riders need a top-three finish at one of the selection events. Each rider’s two best results will be used as a tiebreaker.

There are two selection events remaining for snowboard halfpipe, and they will both take place in January.

Olympic qualifying for snowboard and freeski slopestyle resumes Saturday in Breckenridge.

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MORE: Shaun White details crash that led to 62 stitches

Snowboard Halfpipe
Qualifying Standings 
(through two of four events)
1. Ben Ferguson — 1,800*
2. Jake Pates — 1,320*
3. Danny Davis — 1,200
4. Shaun White — 1,120*
5. Gabe Ferguson — 950
5. Chase Josey — 950

1. Chloe Kim — 2,000* (QUALIFIED)
2. Kelly Clark — 1,400*
3. Maddie Mastro — 1,300*
4. Arielle Gold — 1,100*
5. Elena Hight — 850
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

Breckenridge Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday
Men’s Ski Halfpipe — 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Women’s Ski Halfpipe — 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 4:15-5 p.m.

Saturday
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 11-11:45 a.m.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 12:15-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Ski Slopestyle — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Ski Slopestyle — 4:15-5 p.m.

Julia Mancuso skis final race dressed as Wonder Woman (video)

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Julia Mancuso bid farewell like only she could — with a tiara, cape and Wonder Woman suit.

The most decorated female U.S. Olympic skier with four medals announced Friday morning that today’s World Cup downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo would be the last race of her career.

More on Mancuso’s retirement, career and immediate future here.

She raced Friday as her nickname — “Super Jules” — and coasted to the bottom 18 seconds slower than winner Sofia Goggia.

Afterward, U.S. Ski Team members sprayed her with champagne and lifted her up in the finish corral.

Mancuso chose an appropriate venue for her last race.

She notched her first World Cup podium in Cortina in January 2006, then won the Olympic giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, four weeks later.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s dominance rarely seen in sports, let alone skiing

Jordyn Wieber says she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar

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Jordyn Wieber said she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, becoming the fourth member of the Fierce Five 2012 Olympic team to come forward Friday.

McKayla MaroneyAly Raisman and Gabby Douglas previously said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor for nearly two decades.

Two more Olympians — Jamie Dantzscher (2000) and Simone Biles (2016) — also said they were sexually abused by Nassar.

Wieber spoke for six minutes to start the fourth day of a Nassar sentencing hearing at a Michigan court on Friday.

Michigan state Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said Wieber reached out this week to say she wanted to speak at the hearing where more than 100 women are expected to deliver victim impact statements.

Here’s what Wieber said in front of Nassar on Friday:

I thought that training for the Olympics would be the hardest thing that I would ever had to do, but in fact the hardest thing that is process that I’m a victim of Larry Nassar. It has caused me to feel shame and confusion, and I have spent months trying to think back on my experience and wonder how I didn’t even know this was happening to me and how I became so brainwashed by Larry and everyone at USA Gymnastics, both whom I thought were supposed to be on my side.

I started seeing Larry Nassar at the age of 8 in my hometown of Lansing. He was known as the best gymnastics doctor in the world. Everyone in my club, on the U.S. national team and across the country saw Larry, and everyone said the same thing. He was a miracle worker, and he could fix just about anything. I was treated by Larry for any and all of my injuries from ages 8 ’til I was 18, and it wasn’t long before he had gained my trust. He became a safe person of sorts, and to my teenage self he appeared to be the good guy in an environment that was intense and restricting.

He would try to advise me on how to deal with the stresses of training or my coaches. He would bring us food and coffee at the Olympics when we were too afraid to eat too much in front of our coaches. I didn’t know that these were all grooming techniques that he used to manipulate me and brainwash me to trusting him.

When I was 14 years old, I tore my hamstring in my right leg. This is when he started performing the procedure that we are all now familiar with. I would cringe at how uncomfortable it felt. He did it time after time, appointment after appointment, convincing me that it was helping my hamstring injury. And the worst part was that I had no idea he was sexually abusing me for his own benefit. I knew it felt strange, but he was the national team doctor. Who was I to question his treatments, or even more, risk my chance at making the Olympic team or being chosen to compete internationally. And after all, he was recommended by the national team staff, and he treated us monthly at all of our national team camps. I even talked to my teammates, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, about this treatment, and how uncomfortable it made us feel. None of us really understood it. After I made the Olympic team, I suffered a stress fracture in my right shin. It was extremely painful to tumble and land using my legs, but I fought through the pain because it was the Olympics, and I knew it would be probably my only shot.

Our bodies were all hanging by a thread when we were in London. Who was the doctor that USAG sent to keep us healthy and help us get through? The doctor that was our abuser. The doctor that is a child molester. Because of my shin, I couldn’t train without being in extreme pain, and it affected the number of routines I could do to prepare before the competition. And, ultimately, it made me feel less prepared than I should have been. I didn’t qualify to the all-around competition, and I went through a dark time right before we won the team gold. 

Now, I question everything about that injury and the medical treatment I received. Was Larry even doing anything to help my pain? Was I getting the proper medical care, or was he only focused on which one of us he was going to prey on next? What does he think about when he massaged my sore muscles every day? Now I question everything.

To this day, I still don’t know how he could have been allowed to do this for so long. My teammates and I were subjected to his medical care every single month at the national-team training center in Texas. He was the only male allowed to be present in the athlete dorm rooms to do whatever treatments he wanted. He was allowed to treat us in hotel rooms alone without any supervision. He took photos of us during training and whenever else he wanted. Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of. Nobody was even concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused. I was not protected, and neither were my teammates. 

My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me, and we were betrayed by both. And now the lack of accountability from USAG, USOC and Michigan State have caused me and many other girls to remain shameful, confused and disappointed. 

I am angry with myself for not recognizing the abuse, and that’s something I’m struggling with today. But even thought I am a victim, I do not and will not live my life as one. I am an Olympian. Despite being abused, I worked so hard and managed to achieve my goal. But I want everyone, especially the media, to know that despite my athletic achievements, I am one of over 140 women and survivors whose story is important. Our pain is all the same, and our stories are all important. And now the people who are responsible need to accept responsibility for the pain they have caused me and the rest of the women who have been abused. Larry Nassar is accountable. USA Gymnastics is accountable. The U.S. Olympic Committee is accountable. My teammates and friends have been through enough, and now it’s time for change because the current and future gymnasts do not deserve to live in anxiety, fear or be unprotected like I was.