Shaun White

Shaun White clinches Olympic halfpipe spot

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Shaun White is officially qualified for two events at the Sochi Olympics.

White wrapped up his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in halfpipe by winning the final selection event in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on Sunday. The two-time Olympic champion won with a first-run score of 96.6 points and erred in his second run.

White joins the already qualified Taylor Gold as well as Greg Bretz, who was off the podium Sunday but made it via strong results in the first two selection events in December.

(Update: Danny Davis earned the fourth and final Olympic berth as a discretionary selection announced a half-hour after competition ended.)

White, 27, capped a tumultuous month of Olympic qualifying. He crashed in the first Olympic selection event in halfpipe, injuring an ankle, and was not able to qualify for the Olympic Team in either slopestyle or halfpipe until this final weekend. Weather postponements did not help.

“It was a long [week], but I made the team,” White said on NBC. “I’m pretty happy. It’s everything I could have hoped for.

“I’m one of the only guys doing both [halfpipe and slopestyle]. Juggling the two has been out of hand. It’s really demanding to switch gears and do both, but I’m doing it. I’m making my way.”

White is favored to win Olympic gold in halfpipe and could become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three times.

He might not compete again before the Olympic slopestyle competition that begins Feb. 6, one day before the Opening Ceremony. White has said he is likely to skip this week’s Winter X Games, which would be his first absence from the event this millennium.

It sounds like White could use the rest. His band, Bad Things, releases its debut album Tuesday.

“I’m pretty worked still,” White said. “I would be lying to say I’m all good. I knew I had one really good run in me. That’s kind of my Achilles. I get lazy on the second run if I post a really good score [in the first run].”

His top Olympic threats may not be Americans — Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov and Japanese Ayumu Hirano could also win. White performed a trick in a victory Friday that was first done in competition by Podladtchikov last year — a double cork 1440.

“To put my run down with the new trick I’ve got going, it’s really pulling its weight,” White said. “They’re definitely up to my expectation. I’ve been waiting to pull these new tricks out.”

Gold qualified for the Olympic Team before White on Friday. He is the older brother of Arielle Gold, who qualified for the women’s team earlier Sunday.

Bretz beat White in the first Olympic selection event in December. He finished 12th at the 2010 Olympics.

Davis would have made the 2010 Olympic Team if not for a drunken ATV ride that left him with a broken back four years ago.

Two 2010 Olympians — bronze medalist Scotty Lago and Louie Vito — did not make the 2014 Olympic Team.

Skier with Lyme disease makes Olympic Team

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

Skate America
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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

MORE: World’s top skater leaves famed coach

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

MORE: Dalilah Muhammad rewatches 2019 world records

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