Shaun White

Shaun White lands new trick to win Mammoth halfpipe; Olympic picture crowded

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Shaun White moved closer to clinching his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in halfpipe with his two best runs this season, including an unprecedented one, in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on Friday.

White, the two-time Olympic halfpipe champion, captured the fourth of five Olympic selection events with the two best scores — 97 in his first run followed by 98.6, which included a cab double cork 1440. It marked the first time he landed the trick in competition.

“I treated it like an Olympic event, like it is,” White said on NBCSN, after saying before the second run he was going to ride like it was practice. “I wanted to up my score. I wanted to do something under pressure.”

White beat 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago by 3.8. Taylor Gold was third and became the first man to clinch a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in snowboard halfpipe.

On Thursday, White crashed in a slopestyle event and then clinched his spot in slopestyle in a later event. He skipped the first of two halfpipe events Friday.

“I just woke up in a world of hurt,” White said on NBCSN after going through physical therapy to heal a sore back and neck. “I just knew if I wanted to make a good showing today, it was quality over quantity.”

Lago took second place to join the race for an Olympic berth. He scored 94.8 for his first top-four result of the Olympic selection event series.

“It was do or die,” Lago said on NCBSN. “I had to get on the podium, or else I didn’t have a shot at the Olympics.”

White joined Greg Bretz and Gold with 1,800 points to lead Olympic selection event standings. Gold clinched a berth thanks to strong results in all four selection events so far. Two more will clinch at the conclusion of the fifth and final selection event Sunday in Mammoth Mountain.

Even if White does not clinch an automatic spot, he can be placed on the U.S. Olympic Team as a discretionary selection.

“It’s nice coming back to pipe, obviously, just because this is the one event I feel like I’ve got a little bit of a lead from the season before,” White said on NBCSN. “At least I’m up to par with the other riders. Slopestyle, I’ve been doing catching up with the tricks and learning about my competitors.”

Kelly Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion, stayed perfect by winning a fourth straight women’s event. She scored 94.8 points, beating Chloe Kim, who would have clinched her Olympic berth Friday if she wasn’t too young for the Olympics at 13.

“I had a disappointing fall on my first run,” Clark said on NBCSN. “Right now, everything for me is practice. To be able to come out, second run, under that kind of pressure and put down a run, if I have to do that in Russia, I’m ready.”

2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter was third, her second straight top-four finish Friday to move into third place in the Olympic selection standings behind Clark and Arielle Gold.

There are two automatic Olympic women’s berths still available after Clark. Gold is extremely close to wrapping one up. Teter, Gretchen Bleiler and Kaitlyn Farrington are contenders, too.

It is likely a fourth woman will be chosen as a discretionary selection.

Here are the Olympic selection standings in snowboard halfpipe:

Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Taylor Gold — 1,800 (clinched Olympic berth)
1. Greg Bretz — 1,800
1. Shaun White — 1,800
4. Danny Davis — 1,450
5. Scotty Lago — 1,250
6. Ben Ferguson — 1,050
7. Matt Ladley — 1,000
7. Louie Vito — 1,000

Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe – Three automatic Olympic spots
1. Kelly Clark — 2,000 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Arielle Gold — 1,400
3. Hannah Teter — 1,200
4. Gretchen Bleiler — 1,050
5. Kaitlyn Farrington — 1,000

Reigning world champ must hope for discretionary pick to Olympics

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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