David Wise, Maddie Bowman make Olympics; Gus Kenworthy on bubble

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David Wise and Maddie Bowman won the first Olympic ski halfpipe golds in Sochi. On Friday, they became the first U.S. halfpipe skiers to qualify for PyeongChang.

Wise won for the second time in the first four Olympic qualifiers, this time as part of an American sweep.

Bowman finished fourth in Snowmass, Colo., but she clinched her Olympic spot from having two podiums in the previous three qualifiers.

Neither Wise nor Bowman has to sweat out the fifth and final qualifier next week.

Sochi slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy can’t say the same. He finished seventh Friday, after placing second, 11th and 17th in the first three halfpipe qualifiers.

Kenworthy fell on his first hit on two of his three runs, with one of his skis falling off on the landing both times.

Kenworthy must finish first or second next week to have a shot at automatic halfpipe qualification.

If he doesn’t, Kenworthy will put himself in the same position as four years ago, hoping a committee uses one available spot to put him on the team.

Kenworthy was left off four years ago in favor of Torin Yater-Wallace but of course still qualified in slopestyle.

Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck finished second and third on Friday to reach the automatic Olympic qualification minimum but can’t clinch a berth until next week.

Still, they’re both ahead of Kenworthy. As is Yater-Wallace, who won the first Olympic qualifier last February but didn’t make the final in Snowmass.

A maximum of four U.S. men can make the Olympic ski halfpipe team.

Kenworthy competes in a slopestyle qualifier Sunday in Snowmass. A full broadcast schedule is here.

Wise, 27, went three years between victories when he won an Olympic qualifier last month, according to TeamUSA.org.

The father of two struggled last season with a back injury and concussion but now looks like an Olympic medal favorite again.

Bowman, who turned 24 on Wednesday, is going back to the Olympics after a trying four years.

She underwent May 2014 left knee surgery, then tore her right ACL in January 2015. Still, she managed to win her third and fourth straight Winter X Games titles in 2015 and 2016.

Last season, Bowman’s streak was snapped by Frenchwoman Marie Martinod, who returned from a five-year break to win Olympic silver in 2014.

Martinod, a 33-year-old mom, made the podium in all of her events last season, including titles at X Games and the Olympic test event in South Korea.

This season, Bowman and Martinod have gone head-to-head four times, with Martinod finishing higher at every event until she was eliminated in qualifying this week.

But the most impressive skier this season has been Canadian Cassie Sharpe, who would have won Friday with any of the scores from her three runs — 91.60, 90.8 and 93.2. Sharpe also won the previous U.S. Olympic qualifier last month.

Bowman will be joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Sochi ski slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan and Sochi Olympian Brita Sigourney, should they finish on the podium next week.

Even if they don’t, Logan and Sigourney have the best resumés of the remaining U.S. women. The team will include three or four women.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Halfpipe 
(through four of five events)
1. David Wise — 200** QUALIFIED

2. Alex Ferreira — 180** (1st and 2nd)
3. Aaron Blunck — 140** (2nd and 3rd)
4. Torin Yater-Wallace — 150* (1st and 4th)
5. Gus Kenworthy — 116* (2nd and 7th)

1. Maddie Bowman — 140** QUALIFIED
2. Devin Logan — 130* (2nd and 4th)
2. Brita Sigourney — 130* (2nd and 4th)
4. Annalisa Drew — 95 (4th and 5th)
5. Carly Margulies — 72 (6th and 7th)
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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Ghana Olympic skeleton slider’s helmet: rabbit escapes lion

Ron Leblanc
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It’s called The Rabbit Theory.

That’s what Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana’s first Olympic skeleton slider, calls his new helmet.

The one that he will wear in PyeongChang as the second athlete from his nation to compete at a Winter Games.

Frimpong, 31, tells an incredible story.

He said he was raised by his grandmother Minka in a one-room home with nine other children before joining his mom in the Netherlands at age 8 as an illegal immigrant and eventually moving to Utah.

Frimpong’s full story is here.

Frimpong’s life — before he converted from sprinting to bobsled to skeleton — was chronicled in a 2010 Dutch documentary tilted “Theorie van het Konjin” (translation: The Rabbit Theory).

“My former sprint coach Sammy Monsels talks about the analogy of a rabbit in a cage, ready to escape from a lion,” Frimpong said in an email Monday. “I am that rabbit, and I have escaped the lions [of my past]. I am no longer being eaten by all the things around my life.”

The helmet that he will wear sliding head-first down an icy chute in South Korea in three weeks draws attention to it.

The design is of a lion’s head with mouth agape and a pair of rabbits coming out. Plus the colors of the Ghanaian flag.

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MORE: Jamaica qualifies first Olympic women’s bobsled team

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USA Gymnastics leaders resign as more victims speak

USA Gymnastics
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — USA Gymnastics announced the resignations of three key leaders Monday while more women and girls told a judge about being sexually assaulted at the hands of a sports doctor who spent years with Olympic gymnasts and other female athletes.

The resignations of chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley were announced in Indianapolis while a judge in Lansing heard a fifth day of statements from women and girls who said they were molested by Larry Nassar.

“We support their decisions to resign at this time,” said Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, which is the national governing body for gymnastics. “We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization.”

The board positions are volunteer and unpaid, but the resignations add to the months of turmoil. Steve Penny quit as president last March after critics said USA Gymnastics failed to protect gymnasts from abusive coaches and Nassar.

“New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement Monday. “USA Gymnastics needs to focus on supporting the brave survivors.”

USA Gymnastics last week said it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the Huntsville, Texas, home of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela. Some Olympians said they were assaulted there by Nassar.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Nassar’s sentencing hearing continued Monday, raising the number of girls and women who have spoken to nearly 100 since last week.

“I want to you know that your face and the face of all of the sister survivor warriors — the whole army of you — I’ve heard your words,” Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after a woman spoke in her Michigan courtroom. “Your sister survivors and you are going through incomprehensible lengths, emotions and soul-searching to put your words together, to publicly stop (the) defendant, to publicly stop predators, to make people listen.”

Nassar, 54, has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.

Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.

“Larry, how many of us are there? Do you even know?” asked Clasina Syrboby, as she fought back tears while speaking for more than 20 minutes Monday. “You preyed on me, on us. You saw a way to take advantage of your position — the almighty and trusted gymnastics doctor. Shame on you Larry. Shame on you.

She and other victims also continued their criticism of Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar when initial complaints were made.

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MORE: Watch, read Aly Raisman’s full testimony