Shaun White
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Shaun White entered in first slopestyle event since Sochi Olympics

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Shaun White is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle for next week’s U.S. Open in Vail, Colo., which would mark his first slopestyle competition since he pulled out the day before the event at the Sochi Olympics.

White, the 2006 and 2010 Olympic halfpipe champion, qualified to compete in the event’s Olympic debut in Sochi but pulled out the day before it started, citing injury risk on the modified course.

He later finished fourth in the Sochi Olympic halfpipe.

“I would be lying to say I didn’t maybe bite off a little more than I could chew for this [past] Olympics, just training-wise, it was a gauntlet to try to do both [halfpipe and slopestyle],” White said on “SI Now” on Sept. 16, 2014. “I’m probably more poised to compete in slopestyle in the next Olympics.”

White’s slopestyle competition at the U.S. Open will not include Olympic champion Sage Kotsenburg (concussion) or two-time reigning Winter X Games champion Mark McMorris (broken leg).

Since Sochi, White finished fourth at the January 2015 Winter X Games halfpipe and won the December 2015 Dew Tour Mountain Championships halfpipe.

At the U.S. Open, White is expected to face in halfpipe Olympic silver medalist Ayumu Hirano, Olympic bronze medalist Taku Hiraoka and 2014 and 2015 Winter X Games champion Danny Davis.

In women’s halfpipe, three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark and two-time reigning Winter X Games champion Chloe Kim are expected to face off again.

The slopestyle finals are March 4 and the halfpipe finals March 5 on Red Bull TV.

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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