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Aaron Blunck wins surprise gold in crash-filled ski halfpipe

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Television commentators described the Aspen X Games ski halfpipe as “the most infamous pipe in the sport.” And for good reason.

In Friday night’s first run, Canada’s Noah Bowman was the only skier out of 11 to land cleanly. In the second run, just American Aaron Blunck and Miguel Porteous of New Zealand stayed upright.

Blunck’s second-run score was good enough to earn him the gold medal, followed by Porteous and Bowman.

“It’s just hard conditions out here for everyone,” Blunck, who finished seventh at the Sochi Games as a 17-year-old, said to reporters afterwards. “It was really icy and it was really fast, so with that everybody was going so big, which makes them get a little bit closer to the deck.”

The 2014 Winter Olympic medalists struggled in the Aspen ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic champion David Wise finished last, while 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Kevin Rolland of France was eighth. 2014 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy was 10th, one spot ahead of Wise.

Earlier on Friday, the 2014 Olympic medalists claimed the top three spots in women’s ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic runner-up Marie Martinod of France won X Games gold. At 32, she was the oldest skier in the competition. After her first run, she removed her gloves to show the message “#WOMEN” written in permanent marker on her hands.

Ayana Onozuka, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist from Japan, finished second, followed by 2014 Olympic champion Maddie Bowman of the United States. Three U.S. skiers—Devin Logan, Brita Sigourney and Annalisa Drew—claimed the three spots after Bowman.

Max Parrot successfully defended his X Games gold medal in men’s snowboard big air. Marcus Kleveland of Norway finished second, followed by Canada’s Mark McMorris.

It was the 12th medal of McMorris’ decorated X Games career. McMorris has missed the podium just once in his 13 X Games starts—when he finished fourth in big air in 2011.

MORE: Shaun White has worst X Games finish since 2000

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal