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Gus Kenworthy, Nick Goepper take top two spots at ski slopestyle Olympic qualifier

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Gus Kenworthy took a major step toward making his second Olympic team on Sunday.

The 26-year-old won a U.S. Olympic selection event for ski slopestyle, the third of five qualifiers for the men’s team.

Up to four men can earn spots on the slopestyle team for PyeongChang. Kenworthy is in great shape for one of those spots after today’s win at the U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass. The same is true for Nick Goepper, who finished second behind Kenworthy at this event and second at a qualifying event last month in Breckenridge.

One skier in danger of missing the team is Joss Christensen, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in this event. Christensen tore his ACL last year and just returned to competition this week.

Snowmass hosted two sets of slopestyle qualifiers over the course of the week — Christensen did not make the final in either. He currently sits 15th in the U.S. rankings.

Kenworthy is the only U.S. skier attempting to qualify for the Olympic team in both men’s slopestyle and halfpipe. While he now looks like a good bet to make the slopestyle team, his prospects in halfpipe are shakier.

In order to automatically qualify for the Olympic team, skiers need to have at least two podium finishes during the selection events. Three of Kenworthy’s halfpipe teammates — David Wise, Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck — have already met that criteria. Kenworthy has just one podium finish in halfpipe so far.

Next week, Mammoth Mountain will host the final two selection events for men’s slopestyle and one final selection event for men’s halfpipe.

In halfpipe, Kenworthy may be able to move into one of the three automatic qualifying spots if he finishes on the podium. But if he doesn’t, then he will have to hope he’s added to the team as a discretionary selection.

In slopestyle, Kenworthy and Goepper can become the first men to qualify for the team. Both skiers, along with Christensen, were part of a historic U.S. podium sweep in slopestyle at the last Winter Olympics.

U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass Results

Men’s freeski slopestyle (Contest #2)
1. Gus Kenworthy (USA), 95.40
2. Nick Goepper (USA), 93.60
3. Evan McEachran (CAN), 92.20
4. Quinn Wolferman (USA), 91.60
5. James Woods (GBR), 90.80

Women’s freeski slopestyle (Contest #2)
1. Sarah Hoefflin (SUI), 89.60
2. Maggie Voisin (USA), 87.20
3. Isabel Atkin (GBR), 84.80
4. Julia Krass (USA), 84.00
5. Giulia Tanno (SUI), 79.20

U.S. Qualifying Standings

Men’s freeski slopestyle
1. Nick Goepper, 160**
2. Gus Kenworthy, 140*
3-T. McRae Williams, 79
3-T. Quinn Wolferman, 79
5. Alex Hall, 57
6. Willie Borm, 50

Women’s freeski slopestyle
1. Maggie Voisin, 180** (QUALIFIED)
2. Devin Logan, 90
3. Darian Stevens, 81
4. Julia Krass, 72
5. Taylor Lundquist, 65
6. Caroline Claire, 52

*Has one top-three finish
**Has met minimum criteria of two top-three finishes

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Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson makes another Olympics

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Jamie Anderson will be headed to the 2018 Olympics to defend her gold medal, and she’s hoping to bring some big tricks with her.

By finishing in second place, best among U.S. slopestyle riders, at Dew Tour Breckenridge, Anderson has confirmed her nomination to the U.S. Olympic snowboard team for both slopestyle and big air.

The Breckenridge event served as the third of five selection events for the slopestyle and big air team.

On her second and third runs, Anderson attempted to up the ante by adding a cab double underflip — one of the most progressive tricks in women’s slopestyle snowboarding right now.

She washed out on both attempts but was able to finish on the podium based on the strength of her first run.

The cab double underflip is a new trick for Anderson this season. She learned it earlier this year and then landed it in a contest for the first time back in August.

It’s also a trick that U.S. teammate Julia Marino and Austria’s Anna Gasser had dialed in last season when they beat Anderson at several contests.

“When I was asked about double corks three years ago, I think I said there was no way in hell I ever want to do double corks,” Anderson said. “And then, with a lot of the other girls slowly getting their double corks together, I started to shift my mindset and realize that we also are capable of doing these tricks.”

MORE: Breckenridge women’s slopestyle results | Men

So far, she’s only landed the trick a handful of times. And in the process of learning it, she’s endured some rough crashes that have upped the fear factor of the trick for her.

“I still feel pretty not-that-comfortable going upside-down twice, but it’s fun and it’s starting to click a little bit more,” she said.

Defending her slopestyle gold medal in PyeongChang will be no easy task for Anderson.

Gasser has been dominant over the last year thanks in part to her mastery of the cab double underflip, and Canada’s Spencer O’Brien has put her name in the mix as well after taking the victory in Breckenridge.

Anderson will also have a chance to compete in big air in PyeongChang, though her strongest results have historically come in slopestyle.

Hailey Langland (fourth place) and Marino (sixth place) finished second and third among Americans in Breckenridge.

Both will be expected to secure spots on the team at one of the next two selection events. A fourth spot on the team could be awarded at the discretion of the coaches.

On the men’s side, Chris Corning became the first male rider to confirm a nomination to the Olympic slopestyle and big air team after placing second at the selection event.

Not only did Corning have big tricks like a switch backside 1260 and a backside triple cork 1440 in his run, he also had a variety of unique grabs on his tricks.

His run was bested only by Canadian star Max Parrot, who put down technical tricks in the rail sections and a triple cork 1440 on the final jump.

Last week, Corning was the top American at the big air qualifier at Copper Mountain. He placed second overall in that contest as well.

“It’s crazy to be up here on the podium with these guys. I’ve looked up to these guys for such a long time,” 18-year-old Corning said afterward. “And then being on the Olympic team is a crazy feeling, because we’ve worked so hard to get here.”

Red Gerard looks likely to join Corning on the Olympic team after finishing second among Americans.

The 17-year-old won the first slopestyle qualifier, which was held last season, and now has a pair of top-two finishes among U.S. riders. That means he’s likely to secure a spot on the team at one of the final two selection events.

The U.S. men enter the PyeongChang Olympics as underdogs in slopestyle and big air snowboarding.

Now-retired Sage Kotsenburg was a surprise gold medalist in Sochi, but this event has been dominated by riders from Canada and Norway in recent years.

Corning, a relative unknown just a few years ago who is now one of snowboarding’s biggest rising stars, is optimistic that he can keep the strong results coming as the PyeongChang Olympics approach, though he acknowledges that much of it is out of his control.

“I’ve been competing with these guys for a while, and we do contests together all the time, so I pretty well know what their tricks are going to be,” Corning said. “But you can’t really think about it too much because you’ve got to do your run, and what the judges score your run, they score your run. You can’t really change anything about it.”

The final two Olympic qualifiers for the slopestyle and big air team will take place in January.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through three of five events)
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED

2. Red Gerard — 1,800*
3. Chandler Hunt — 1,160*
4. Kyle Mack — 1,000*
5. Judd Henkes — 1,100

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,600*
2. Hailey Langland — 1,600*
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,050
5. Ty Walker — 1,000
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

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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.