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Why isn’t one of world’s best snowboarders in PyeongChang?

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Some projected Yuki Kadono to win an Olympic medal, but the Japanese snowboarder isn’t even on the entry list.

Kadono made his fourth X Games Aspen big air podium in the last five years two weeks ago. He is the first man to land back-to-back triple cork 1620s and believed to be the only one to land a quadruple cork 1980 (though not in a contest).

Yet he has not competed in an International Ski Federation event (like a World Cup or world championships) since August 2015, making him ineligible for the Olympics.

The Japanese Olympic Committee did not detail why when asked about it Wednesday. Kadono and Japan’s snowboard federation have not responded to Facebook messages or an email asking the same question.

But others have. A man with Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers company in PyeongChang and Olympic big air medal favorite Max Parrot of Canada, in separate interviews, said that Kadono violated Japanese law while he was in the U.S.

“His federation, they didn’t like it, so they kicked him off the national team,” said Parrot, the three-time reigning X Games big air champion. “His career for that ended. But we have other contests like Dew Tour, X Games, so he can still participate in those ones.”

Three other Canadian riders said they didn’t know the exact violation, but they knew there was an issue between Kadono and the Japanese federation.

The absence of the 21-year-old Kadono from slopestyle starting with qualifying Friday night (ET) and the new Olympic event of big air in two weeks is felt by the medal favorites.

“I’ve gotten to know Yuki pretty well over the last four years, and it is really tough not having him here,” said Mark McMorris, a four-time X Games Aspen slopestyle champion. “Japan’s obviously a really strict nation not letting him come. It’s kind of their loss at the end of the day. The kid’s so nice, such a great representative of snowboarding. He’s a really polite kid. It’s too bad.”

NBCOlympics.com: How to watch every snowboarding competition

For McMorris, the episode reminds him of Kazuhiro Kokubo, the Japanese rider who was barred from the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony by his federation for showing up in Vancouver with his shirt untucked, tie loosened and pants sagging below his waist.

Kadono’s violation is not believed to be along those lines.

“It’s an honor thing,” NBC Olympics analyst Todd Richards said. “The Japanese team, they don’t screw around.”

The Canadians could sweep big air or slopestyle in PyeongChang, but they would rather do it with the groundbreaking Japanese rider in the field.

“If he was here, he could definitely be a medal contender in big air and slope,” said Tyler Nicholson, the 2017 X Games slopestyle silver medalist from Ontario. “He’s done one of the gnarliest snowboard tricks that’s ever been done, a backside quadruple cork 1980. When I saw that, I was just mind-blown. … He did 16 to 16 [at the 2015 U.S. Open]. It still hasn’t been done [since]. Maybe at this event you’ll see it from some of the dudes, but not Yuki, unfortunately.”

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

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Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.

How to watch Closing Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics

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Another Olympics is in the books.

The PyeongChang Closing Ceremony will cap off the 2018 Winter Games Sunday morning, beginning at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT with a live stream of the events.

Jessie Diggins has been named the U.S. flag bearer after an incredibly gutsy performance to take home the country’s first-ever gold medal in Cross-Country.

How, when and where to watch the Closing Ceremony

Stream LIVE on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app: Sunday at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT (Stream here)

The live stream will feature all the sights and sounds of the Closing Ceremony without any commentary.

Watch on TV: Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC (Stream here)

The Olympic figure skating commentating trio of Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon will host the Closing Ceremony on NBC in primetime beginning at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.

“It’s a huge honor and privilege,” Lipinski said. “I’m so excited to embark on this new and exciting adventure and bring the Closing Ceremony to the U.S.”

“This is a glorious and unexpected experience that I can’t wait to get fancy for!” Weir said.

Mike Tirico – NBC’s primetime host throughout the PyeongChang Games – hosted the Closing Ceremony for Rio in 2016 alongside Ryan Seacrest and Mary Carillo.

Tirico and Katie Couric hosted the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony in South Korea two weeks ago.

Sunday night’s primetime edition of the Closing Ceremony will also feature simulstreams on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. (Stream here)