Greg Bretz upsets Shaun White for Dew Tour halfpipe title (video)

Greg Bretz
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Greg Bretz crossed his fingers at the end of a 600-foot halfpipe and watched Shaun White take his final run, expecting White to do what he always does.

White didn’t.

Bretz upset the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion in the first of five Olympic selection events in Breckenridge, Colo., on Saturday. Bretz, who was 12th at the 2010 Olympics, won the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships with a first-run score of 91.40.

“I’m ecstatic right now,” Bretz, 22, said on NBC. “I don’t know what to say. Olympics, here I come.”

Actually, Bretz has not qualified for the Olympics yet.

Breckenridge marks the first of five Olympic selection events for freeskiing and snowboarding. The others are on the U.S. Grand Prix schedule — Copper Mountain, Colo., next weekend, followed by 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 selection events. 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.

13-year-old makes podium in women’s halfpipe

Bretz’s first run was the best out of a 16-rider field. White, the top qualifier, was the last man on the world’s largest halfpipe for both runs. After uncharacteristically crashing in his first run, White put down a solid but not spectacular second run.

Both he and Bretz waited, and waited, and waited for White’s score to come down. White just missed, getting a 90.40 to grab second place. Another American, Taylor Gold, was third with 89.60.

“My first hit I think was a little squirrely,” White said on NBC. “I think that’s what maybe cost me the win.”

White stood in 11th place after his first run, when he under-rotated a backside double McTwist 1260 and fell to the snow at the bottom of the 600-foot long, 22-foot high halfpipe. That run scored a 37.40.

“I just kind of, I half-assed it is the technical term,” White said, according to USA Today. “I was killing my run out. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really doing it.’ And I kind of got in my head and just forgot what I was doing. I didn’t take off with enough momentum off the lip and it just came around too slow. It happens.”

White, who spent time this fall on a special training area in Australia, didn’t pull out all of his best tricks in either run.

“I did some tricks in practice that I think only one guy has done before so I am pretty excited,” he told the newspaper.

White gave his second-place trophy to 11-year-old Connor Tripp.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

White will compete in the slopestyle final Sunday. He was the top qualifier. He told reporters he tweaked an ankle in his Saturday crash and would ice it before riding Sunday.

There were some surprises in the halfpipe final. 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago took 11th, putting him behind in the race for an Olympic berth.

Top international stars Ayumu Hirano and Iouri Podladtchikov were sixth and 13th, respectively.

Bretz’s second run was also uninspiring. He fell on his butt, slowly slid to the end of the pipe and dropped to the snow.

“I was super amped,” Bretz said on NBC. “I just didn’t throw it properly. I’m fine. I’ve been working out a lot this summer just for that reason. It helps out.”

The Breckenridge action can be live streamed here all weekend.

Breckenridge Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe
1. Greg Bretz (USA) 91.40
2. Shaun White (USA) 90.40
3. Taylor Gold (USA) 89.60

Star U.S. freeskier’s Olympic hopes in doubt

Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“I think I was just not ready to deliver at that day,” Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen, said on NBC. “I was really so confident, I think I sort of overthought everything and tried to get ahead of myself. But I think it’s all right.”

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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