Shaun White

U.S. Olympic snowboard, freeskiing teams to be named after busy weekend

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A combined 20 finals in snowboarding and freeskiing will be contested during a 58-hour stretch beginning Thursday to finalize an up-to-32-member Olympic Team over the events.

Weather postponements in Breckenridge, Colo., last week turned this week’s last Olympic selection event in snowboarding into a 12-final extravaganza beginning Thursday.

Shaun White has not qualified for the Olympics in either halfpipe or slopestyle through two of five selection competitions. He is likely to qualify in slopestyle and will need at least one strong finish in halfpipe. Even if he doesn’t qualify, he can be named to either event as a discretionary selection.

Scroll down for event-by-event standings and outlooks.

Here’s the snowboard finals schedule (separate finals for men and women, all times Eastern):

Thursday — Snowboard Slopestyle No. 3 — 12:30-2 p.m.
Thursday — Snowboard Slopestyle No. 4 — 4:30-6 p.m.
Friday — Snowboard Halfpipe No. 3 — 12:30-1:45 p.m.
Friday — Snowboard Halfpipe No. 4 — 3:10-5:30 p.m.
Saturday — Snowboard Slopestyle No. 5 — 2-4 p.m.
Sunday — Snowboard Halfpipe No. 5 — 2:40-5 p.m.

Freeskiing did get its third of five qualifiers in at Breckenridge, leaving a more manageable eight total finals in Park City, Utah, followed by an O.A.R. concert.

Here’s the freeskiing finals schedule:

Friday — Ski Slopestyle No. 4
Friday — Ski Halfpipe No. 4
Saturday — Ski Slopestyle No. 5 — 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Saturday — Ski Halfpipe No. 5 — 6:55-10:30 p.m.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association details how the Olympic Team selection process works in this snowboarding document and this freestyle skiing document.

Here’s the text for snowboarding:

Up to three halfpipe athletes per gender who have had a top four result, against the entire competition field, in the selection events will be named to the Olympic team. If more than three athletes, in either gender, have had a top four result then ties will be broken. … Each athlete’s best two results will be combined to create a ranking list for nomination in each gender.

Up to three slopestyle men and two slopestyle women athletes who have had a top four result, against the entire competition field, in the selection events will be named to the Olympic team. If more than three men and two women athletes have had a top four result then ties will be broken. … Each athlete’s best two results will be combined to create a ranking list for nomination in each gender.

Here’s the text for freestyle skiing:

Up to three halfpipe (or slopestyle) athletes per gender who have had two top three results against the entire competition field in the selection events during the selection period will be named to the Olympic team. If more than three athletes, in either gender, have had two top three results then ties will be broken. … Each athlete’s best two results will be combined to create a ranking list for nomination in each gender.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

A nation can’t send more than 24 snowboarders to the Olympics across all disciplines — halfpipe, slopestyle, snowboardcross and parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom — even though it could qualify up to 32 Olympic snowboarding spots (four per gender per event).

As of Jan. 13, the U.S. had qualified 26 snowboarding quota spots — four men and women each in halfpipe and slopestyle, four men in snowboardcross, three women in snowboardcross, two men in parallel and one woman in parallel. If it stays that way, the U.S. will not be able to fill two of those spots.

A nation can’t send more than 26 freestyle skiers to the Olympics across all disciplines — aerials, moguls, skicross, ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle — even though it could qualify up to 40 Olympic freestyle skiing spots (four per gender per event).

As of Jan. 13, the U.S. had qualified 34 freestyle skiing quota spots — four men and women each in aerials, moguls, ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle, two men in skicross and zero women in skicross. If it stays that way, the U.S. will not be able to fill eight of those spots.

The Olympic selection tiebreaker rankings for halfpipe and slopestyle snowboarding and skiing are calculated the same as World Cup standings, on a points system that begins with:

First place — 1,000 points (for snowboarding, 100 for freeskiing)
Second — 800 (80 for freeskiing)
Third — 600 (60 for freeskiing)
Fourth — 500 (50 for freeskiing)

The tiebreaker rankings throw out results by international athletes (such as Australian Torah Bright, who won the Dew Tour women’s halfpipe).

That in mind, here are the Olympic selection event tiebreaker rankings for snowboard halfpipe, snowboard slopestyle, ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle (only counting snowboarders with top-four results and skiers with top-three results).

Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Greg Bretz — 1,800
2. Taylor Gold — 1,600
3. Ben Ferguson — 1,000
4. Louie Vito — 900
5. Shaun White — 800

Bretz and Gold are in strong positions as the winners of the first two events. Though White is fifth in points, he is in better position than Ferguson and Vito because he did not compete in the second event. 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago is in danger, having not achieved a top-four yet.

Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Kelly Clark — 2,000 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Arielle Gold — 1,400
3. Gretchen Bleiler — 1,000

Gold and the 2006 Olympic silver medalist Bleiler are in the driver’s seat, but Kaitlyn Farrington and two-time Olympian Elena Hight can put pressure on them — or surpass them — with top-four finishes. 2006 Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter is in danger with no top-fours yet.

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Shaun White — 1,320

White is the only American with a top-four finish so far, though Chas Guldemond has more points (1,800) without a top-four finish. They are in the best position, followed by Sage Kotsenburg (1,250) and Brandon Davis (1,100).

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle — Two automatic Olympic spots
1. Jamie Anderson — 1,800
2. Ty Walker — 1,500

Anderson and Walker were the top Americans at the first two events, respectively. But with only two automatic spots, it will be tougher to clinch. Jessika Jenson and Jordie Karlinski could both pass them with better results this week.

Men’s Ski Halfpipe — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. David Wise — 200 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Aaron Blunck — 180 (has two top-three results)
3. Gus Kenworthy — 120
4. Lyman Currier — 110

Two-time Winter X Games champion Simon Dumont has 140 points but is not on this list because he has zero top-three finishes. If he does not finish in the top three Friday and Saturday, he will not earn an automatic Olympic spot. Reigning X Games and world silver medalist Torin Yater-Wallace will not compete and must hope to be put on the U.S. Olympic Team as a discretionary selection.

Women’s Ski Halfpipe — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Maddie Bowman — 200 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Brita Sigourney — 180 (has two top-three results)
3. Angeli VanLaanen — 130

2009 World Champion and 2010 Winter X Games champion Jen Hudak is not entered in Park City after suffering major right knee injuries in December. She will not be going to Sochi. Sigourney is very close to clinching. Devin Logan, who is trying to qualify in halfpipe and slopestyle, needs top-three finishes Friday and Saturday to have a chance at earning an automatic spot.

Men’s Ski Slopestyle — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Nick Goepper — 200 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Bobby Brown — 180

Brown all but clinched his spot by winning in Breckenridge last week. 2013 World Champion Tom Wallisch and 2011 World Champion Alex Schlopy need top-three finishes Friday and Saturday to have a chance at earning an automatic spot.

Women’s Ski Slopestyle — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Devin Logan — 180 (has two top-three results)
2. Keri Herman — 160
3. Maggie Voisin — 140
4. Darian Stevens — 140
5. Grete Eliassen — 140

This is the tightest race of them all. Logan, Herman and Stevens can clinch with victories in either of the last two events, among other scenarios.

Rob Ford weighs in on Toronto 2024 bid

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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