Farrington, Bright and Clark talk women’s halfpipe final

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Kaitlyn Farrington couldn’t believe that she had emerged as the new Olympic women’s snowboard halfpipe champion.

One wonders if many of those who observed Wednesday’s final felt the same way after the Idaho native narrowly won the gold over Vancouver halfpipe winner Torah Bright of Australia.

Farrington had posted the best semifinal score to advance into the main event and she had been considered a medal contender going into Sochi.

VIDEO: Meet Kaitlyn Farrington, America’s new sweetheart

But the prospect of beating all three former Olympic gold medalists in the final – Bright plus two of Farrington’s own teammates, Kelly Clark (2002) and Hannah Teter (2006) – seemed low.

Instead, Farrington sprang a surprise.

“I was hoping to make the finals, that was my main goal,” Farrington said afterwards. “And then during finals, I thought if I land a good run, I might be on the podium. So to come out on top–I just can’t believe it.

“I can’t believe I was sitting there in front of the last three gold medalists. It’s crazy. Snowboarding is changing so much. It’s anybody’s game on any day.”

VIDEO: How did they pull off their halfpipe tricks?

Bright was almost able to defend her crown despite a fall on her first run. Her second run earned her a strong 91.50, but that was just a quarter of a point shy of Farrington’s best, a 91.75 on her own second run.

“It was perhaps one of the hardest events I’ve ridden in, in a long time,” said Bright. “It was just really challenging. I’m just so happy the night’s over really and that I was able to put down a run.”

Then there was Clark, who showed the determination that’s made her the most decorated snowboarder in history.

On her first run, she had slammed onto the ledge of the pipe and then fell into it. That put the pressure firmly on her as she went out on the last run of the competition.

But the ’02 Salt Lake winner still went right for Farrington and Bright, breaking out a 1080 as part of a clean trip through.

VIDEO: Farrington a refreshing winner

It wasn’t enough for gold as the judges gave her a 90.75, but it allowed her to go past Teter and earn the bronze – her third Olympic medal in four tries.

“If I didn’t win, I’m glad someone from the U.S. did, because we’re going to get to see our flag raised and hear our national anthem,” Clark said.

All in all, a fun night at Rosa Khutor.

Katie Ledecky swims fastest at U.S. Open from B final

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For what must have been the first time in seven years, Katie Ledecky failed to qualify for an A final in one of her primary events on Friday morning. No matter, she swam the fastest 200m freestyle at the U.S. Open from the B final at night.

Ledecky, owner of 20 combined Olympic and world titles, clocked 1:56.24 to win the B final by nearly three seconds in Atlanta. In the very next race, American record holder Allison Schmitt touched first in the A final in 1:56.47.

Full results are here. The final day of the meet airs live on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Ledecky has rarely lost domestically in freestyles from 200m through 1500m since she made her first Olympic team at age 15 in 2012.

She kept the streak intact, giving her a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in the first three days of the U.S. Open, what could be the deepest domestic meet before the Olympic trials in June.

Internationally, Ledecky faced challengers in the 200m free in this Olympic cycle, unlike the last one. Italian veteran and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won the last two world titles, with Ledecky missing the event this summer due to her mid-meet illness.

Ledecky ranks seventh in the world in the 200m free this year but likely would have been faster if she was able to race at her best at world champs.

Domestically, Simone Manuel has crept up, clocking 1:56.09 to lead off the 4x200m free relay at worlds to rank second among Americans in 2019. Manuel was the third-fastest American on Friday, recording 1:57.21, her fastest time ever outside of a major summer meet.

In other events Friday, Phoebe Bacon upset world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke. Bacon, who like Smith is 17 years old, overtook Smith in the last 25 meters and prevailed by .05 in 58.63. Bacon, while shy of Smith’s world record 57.57, took .39 off her personal best to become the fifth-fastest in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King dominated the 100m breaststroke, beating a strong field by .62 of a second in 1:05.65.

Chase Kalisz won a potential Olympic trials preview in the 400m individual medley in 4:13.07. Kalisz, the Rio silver medalist, held off 18-year-old Carson Foster by 1.69 seconds. Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic champion in the event, was fifth, 6.65 seconds behind.

Rio Olympian Townley Haas won the men’s 200m free in 1:45.92, his fastest time since August 2018. Haas, the 2017 World silver medalist, improved to the second-fastest American in the event this year behind Andrew Seliskar.

Torri Huske won the 100m butterfly on the eve of her 17th birthday. Huske clocked 57.48, taking .23 off her personal best to move from sixth fastest to third fastest in the U.S. this year.

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Ester Ledecka stuns again, wins World Cup downhill from bib No. 26

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Consider 26 a lucky number for Ester Ledecka.

Ledecka, the snowboard champion who stunningly captured the PyeongChang Olympic super-G from bib No. 26, won her first World Cup ski race on Friday — also from bib No. 26.

Ledecka was fastest in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta.

She kept Swiss Corinne Suter from her first World Cup win by .35 of a second. Austrian Stephanie Venier was third. Mikaela Shiffrin was 10th in her weakest discipline. Full results are here.

“I am for sure more shocked than everybody here,” Ledecka said. “I was a little bit, not disappointed about the run, but I was not super satisfied. Then I was really surprised about the time.”

Ledecka, an Olympic and world champion in Alpine snowboarding from the Czech Republic, had a previous best Alpine skiing World Cup finish of seventh. The top-ranked racers all go in the top 20 of the start list.

Last season, Ledecka raced more World Cup skiing events than snowboarding events for the first time. She was forced to choose between world championships in skiing and in snowboarding due to schedules and picked the former with a top finish of 15th.

She’s undecided about her upcoming schedule. She could continue on the Alpine skiing tour with a super-G in Switzerland next weekend, or she could fly to Italy for a snowboarding event.

The women race another downhill and a super-G in Lake Louise the next two days. A full TV and live stream schedule for the weekend races is here.

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