Torin Yater-Wallace

Torin Yater-Wallace, Maddie Bowman lead U.S. skiers onto halfpipe podium at Olympic qualifier

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Heavy snow on Friday and high winds on Saturday led to the cancellation of the final round of the skiing halfpipe and snowboarding slopestyle events at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix. The competition, held in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., served as the first Olympic qualifier for the U.S. athletes hoping to make the team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

With the final round unable to be contested, the results from qualification stood and four skiers moved halfway to earning an Olympic berth. In the men’s freeskiing halfpipe competition, Torin Yater-Wallace earned the top score of 92.33, followed by Gus Kenworthy with 92.oo. and Taylor Seaton with 90.00. Yater-Wallace and Kenworthy were 2014 Olympians, with Kenworthy earning a silver medal in the ski slopestyle event.

It was Yater-Wallace’s first World Cup win since 2014. He’s had his share of injuries in the years since Sochi, with a concussion in 2015 followed by an infection that affected his gall bladder, liver and lungs and put him on life support in 2016. At the Mammoth competition, he told U.S. Freeskiing, “(I’m) actually dealing with a really bruised heel right now, but I am working through it.”

In the women’s event, the reigning Olympic champion in ski halfpipe, Maddie Bowman, finished second. In first place was France’s Marie Martinod and third was Japan’s Ayana Onozuka.

Yater-Wallace, Kenworthy, Seaton and Bowman now just need one more podium finish at an Olympic selection event to automatically become PyeongChang Olympians. A maximum of three athletes per gender will be named to the U.S. team if they finish on the podium at two designated selection events. The second of the five planned qualifiers will be held next December.

“The fact that it’s an Olympic qualifier definitely adds a lot of pressure,” Kenworthy said, “but I tried not to think too much about the stakes at hand and just focused on landing my run.”

MORE: Torin Yater-Wallace healthy going into X Games after years of health scares

 

 

U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth broadcast schedule; first Olympic qualifier

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 20:  Maddie Bowman of the United States celebrates winning the gold medal in the Freestyle Skiing Ladies' Ski Halfpipe Finals with David Wise, gold medal winner in the Men's Ski Halfpipe on day thirteen of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Shaun White and Chloe Kim, plus freeskiers and snowboarders seeking Olympic berths, take flight at the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app starting Saturday.

White, a two-time Olympic champion, and Kim, a 16-year-old who already owns two X Games titles, head the halfpipe snowboarding fields at Mammoth. They’re looking to bounce back after being upset at the X Games last week.

White takes on a field including U.S. Olympic teammates Greg BretzTaylor Gold and Louie Vito, plus X Games winner Scotty James of Australia.

Kim will face a more daunting challenge in Olympic champions Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter and Sochi Olympian Arielle Gold.

While White and Kim build toward next season, Mammoth marks the first of five Olympic qualifiers for ski and snowboard slopestyle and ski halfpipe.

That means U.S. Olympic champions Jamie AndersonMaddie BowmanJoss Christensen and David Wise open their quests to qualify for PyeongChang this week. Sage Kotsenburg, the surprise first Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is sitting out Mammoth as he decides whether he wants to make a run for PyeongChang.

Olympic qualifying in those three disciplines consists of five events for ski halfpipe and slopestyle and four events for snowboard slopestyle. The remaining events will be next season.

Each athlete’s top two results across qualifying will determine standings from which three athletes per gender per event can be named to the PyeongChang team. More athletes can be added based on discretionary selection by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association next January.

MORE: Shaun White impressed by Chloe Kim

U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Schedule
Friday
Ski Halfpipe, 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET — LIVE STREAM POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER
Snowboard Slopestyle, 4-5:30 p.m. ET — LIVE STREAM POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER

Saturday
Ski Halfpipe — 12:15-1:55 p.m. ET — LIVE STREAM
Snowboard Slopestyle — 4:30-6:15 p.m. ET — LIVE STREAM
NBC broadcast — 4:30-6 p.m. ET

Sunday
Snowboard Halfpipe — 12:30-2 p.m. ET — LIVE STREAM
Ski Slopestyle — 5:15-7 p.m. ET — LIVE STREAM
NBC broadcast — 3-4 p.m. ET

Aaron Blunck wins surprise gold in crash-filled ski halfpipe

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO - JANUARY 11:  Aaron Blunk of the USA spins above the pipe as he finished second in the FIS Freestyle Ski Half Pipe World Cup at the US Grand Prix on January 11, 2013 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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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