Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

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

Sildaru exudes ‘madness and grace’ in X Games ski slopestyle for gold

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In 2016, at just 13, Kelly Sildaru walked off with her very first X Games gold, and the record as the youngest Winter X Games medalist ever. One year later, Estonia’s slopestyle star was back breaking more records in Aspen.

Already pocketing X Games big air silver on Saturday night, Sildaru put up a leaderboard-topping 92.33 in her first run in women’s ski slopestyle on Sunday, followed by Tess Ledeux of France and Giulia Tanno of Switzerland.

The solid scoring of the first round would not carry over into the second set, however, with the field unable to land a run to unseat the Estonian. Tess Ledeux hung on to win silver, while Norway’s Johanne Killi improved upon her first run to jump over Tanno to take the bronze.

Fellow Estonian and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end, Margus Hunt even showed his support for his fellow countrywoman on Twitter as he watched from home.

For Sildaru, she leaves Aspen with two medals – gold in women’s ski slopestyle and silver in big air. If that were not enough, she also became the first X Games athlete to win two golds before turning 15-years-old when she successfully defended her 2016 slopestyle title.

Next February, on Day 9 of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, Sildaru will celebrate her 16th birthday, and if the X Games are any indication, the party should be super sweet.

Later on the mountain, three M’s lead the men’s X Games snowboard slopestyle final going into the final run. Norway’s Marcus Kleveland and two Canadians – favorite Mark McMorris and X Games vet Max Parrot. Despite heavy movement in the silver and bronze medal positions, no one could come close to the Norwegian on Sunday.

The 17-year-old Kleveland unseated Canada’s Mark McMorris, the defending X Games snowboard slopestyle champ and 2014 Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist, to win his first X Games gold. Looking for a storybook ending in his final run, McMorris landed his second jump clean, but switched the direction of his approach going into his final trick – likely invisible to the unknowing eye. The adjustment was enough of a misstep for the judges to deduct points, costing him a shot at gold.

Tyler Nicholson of Canada crashed the podium on his second run, knocking Norway’s Stale Sandbech down a peg to third, barely allowing Sandbech enough time to catch his breath after he had just landed in silver position on his own follow-up run.

Unfortunately for Sandbech, McMorris’ first run score was a couple points better, keeping the four-time X Games snowboard slopestyle gold medalist on the 2017 podium for bronze.

In addition to his slopestyle gold, Kleveland won silver under the lights on Friday night in the men’s snowboard big air event, landing an off-axis quadruple cork – a first in X Games history.

Aaron Blunck wins surprise gold in crash-filled ski halfpipe

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Television commentators described the Aspen X Games ski halfpipe as “the most infamous pipe in the sport.” And for good reason.

In Friday night’s first run, Canada’s Noah Bowman was the only skier out of 11 to land cleanly. In the second run, just American Aaron Blunck and Miguel Porteous of New Zealand stayed upright.

Blunck’s second-run score was good enough to earn him the gold medal, followed by Porteous and Bowman.

“It’s just hard conditions out here for everyone,” Blunck, who finished seventh at the Sochi Games as a 17-year-old, said to reporters afterwards. “It was really icy and it was really fast, so with that everybody was going so big, which makes them get a little bit closer to the deck.”

The 2014 Winter Olympic medalists struggled in the Aspen ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic champion David Wise finished last, while 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Kevin Rolland of France was eighth. 2014 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy was 10th, one spot ahead of Wise.

Earlier on Friday, the 2014 Olympic medalists claimed the top three spots in women’s ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic runner-up Marie Martinod of France won X Games gold. At 32, she was the oldest skier in the competition. After her first run, she removed her gloves to show the message “#WOMEN” written in permanent marker on her hands.

Ayana Onozuka, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist from Japan, finished second, followed by 2014 Olympic champion Maddie Bowman of the United States. Three U.S. skiers—Devin Logan, Brita Sigourney and Annalisa Drew—claimed the three spots after Bowman.

Max Parrot successfully defended his X Games gold medal in men’s snowboard big air. Marcus Kleveland of Norway finished second, followed by Canada’s Mark McMorris.

It was the 12th medal of McMorris’ decorated X Games career. McMorris has missed the podium just once in his 13 X Games starts—when he finished fourth in big air in 2011.

MORE: Shaun White has worst X Games finish since 2000