Maddie Bowman wins Dew Tour ski halfpipe

Maddie Bowman

American Maddie Bowman took her first step toward the Sochi Olympics, winning the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships ski halfpipe in Breckenridge, Colo., on Friday.

Bowman, 19, pulled off a pair of 900s on the first of two runs. Her first-run score, 89.60, held up through the second run. Bowman, the reigning Winter X Games champion, is considered a medal contender in the first Olympic ski halfpipe in Sochi, should she make the team.

“All the girls killed it,” Bowman said. “Everyone’s been pushing it so hard.”

Full Breckenridge schedule, contenders

Bowman edged another American, Angeli VanLaanen, the top qualifier from Wednesday, who had 89.00 points. 2011 X Games silver medalist Brita Sigourney took third with 88.20.

VanLaanen, 28, took a three-year break from halfpipe skiing to treat Lyme disease and finished sixth at the World Championships in March.

Breckenridge marks the first of five stops in the Olympic trials process. The others are on the U.S. Grand Prix schedule — Copper Mountain, Colo., Northstar, Calif., Park City, Utah, and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

The five events will determine Olympians in snowboard halfpipe and the new Olympic events of snowboard slopestyle and ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle. The Olympic rosters are expected to be announced Jan. 22.

The overall Olympic qualification standings will be determined by the two best results for an athlete over the trials tour. No more than four athletes can make the U.S. Olympic Team per event. It’s possible fewer than four will be named for some events.

The action can be live streamed here all weekend.

Breckenridge Women’s Ski Halfpipe
1. Maddie Bowman (USA) 89.60
2. Angeli VanLaanen (USA) 89.00
3. Brita Sigourney (USA) 88.20
6. Devin Logan (USA) 75.00
8. Annalisa Drew (USA) 38.00

Shaun White leads halfpipe qualifiers

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”