Shaun White ends season with comeback U.S. Open win

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Shaun White capped the last season before the PyeongChang Winter Games by beating the rider who had emerged as an Olympic favorite this winter.

White, the 2006 and 2010 Olympic halfpipe champ who finished fourth at Sochi 2014, scored 92.74 points in his second of three runs to win the Burton U.S. Open for a second straight year and seventh time overall.

He came from behind to beat Australian Scotty James, who had the highest-scoring first run with 82.87 points. James beat White at both the Winter X Games in January and the PyeongChang Olympic test event in February.

“I needed those to make it today,” White said of the defeats, which included an 11th-place finish at X Games, his worst since his debut in 2000 at 13 years old. “I needed that motivation and frustration of losing.”

White said it was his last contest of the season. White had an up-and-down campaign, but it was his busiest since the Sochi Olympics. In addition to the X Games and Olympic test event defeats, and an 18th-place finish at his season opener in December, he won the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., in February.

On Saturday, White landed a cab double cork 1440 — or YOLO Flip — followed by his signature double McTwist 1260 in the same run for the first time in his career, according to The Associated Press.

“Come next season, I’m going to be a completely different rider,” White told reporter Tina Dixon on the U.S. Open live stream. “On another level, hopefully. It’s so funny because I keep hearing from people about this [2018] Olympics and whatnot. I’m already thinking about China [the 2022 Beijing Winter Games]. I’m going to keep going.”

Chase Josey, emerging as a favorite for one of four U.S. Olympic team spots, was third on Saturday. Sochi Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov was fourth, and 2014 and 2015 Winter X Games champion Danny Davis was sixth.

Japan Olympic silver medalist Ayumu Hirano was taken to a hospital for further evaluation after a fall in his second run, Dixon reported.

Chloe Kim won the women’s final after three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark pulled out for precautionary reasons following a warm-up crash.

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MORE: 18 U.S. Olympic hopefuls to watch for PyeongChang 2018

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”