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Alex Ferreira wins first ski halfpipe event of season

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Six months after winning the final World Cup competition of the 2016/17 season, Alex Ferreira is picking up right where he left off.

Ferreira won this season’s first major freeski halfpipe contest, which was held at Cardrona on Friday as part of Winter Games New Zealand and also doubled as a World Cup event. His winning run, which included forward double cork 1260s in both directions, showcased the signature amplitude that has helped turn him into a legitimate contender.

A native of Colorado, Ferreira is one of many skiers who will be vying to make the U.S. Olympic team later this winter. (Qualifying, which got underway last winter, resumes in December.) The U.S. roster for freeski halfpipe is extremely deep, with reigning Olympic gold medalist David Wise, 2017 X Games champion Aaron Blunck, Torin Yater-Wallace, Gus Kenworthy, Taylor Seaton, Lyman Currier and Birk Irving among the other top hopefuls. Only a maximum of four skiers will make the team, either through direct qualification or a discretionary selection.

Of the U.S. skiers listed above, only Ferreira, Blunck and Irving competed in New Zealand. However, many of the top international skiers were in the field, including Canada’s Mike Riddle (the 2014 Olympic silver medalist) and France’s Kevin Rolland (the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist). Rolland ended up finishing second behind Ferreira at Winter Games NZ, and Simon d’Artois of Canada took third. Though Rolland had back-to-back double cork 1260s at the end of his run, he was only able to get in four tricks overall, while others, including Ferreira, were able to squeeze a fifth hit into their runs.

Four Americans in total reached the men’s final. Blunck finished fourth, Hunter Hess placed seventh, and Irving was eighth.

The women’s halfpipe contest was won by Canadian freeskier Cassie Sharpe. Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru landed in second, and France’s Marie Martinod rounded out the podium.

It’s a notable result for Sildaru, as the 15-year-old rising star has been dominating the slopestyle scene in recent years and was already pegged as the Olympic favorite in that event. Although she became the junior world champion in halfpipe back in March, she was relatively untested against top halfpipe skiers until now.

The top American was Annalisa Drew, who finished fourth. Carly Margulies (5th), Maddie Bowman (6th) and Brita Sigourney (10th) also cracked the top ten. Bowman is the reigning Olympic champion on the women’s side.

Men’s Freeski Halfpipe
1. Alex Ferreira (USA), 93.40
2. Kevin Rolland (FRA), 90.20
3. Simon d’Artois (CAN), 88.60
4. Aaron Blunck (USA), 87.20
5. Miguel Porteous (NZL), 86.80

Women’s Freeski Halfpipe
1. Cassie Sharpe (CAN), 91.00
2. Kelly Sildaru (EST), 90.20
3. Marie Martinod (FRA), 84.40
4. Annalisa Drew (USA), 82.80
5. Carly Margulies (USA), 81.00

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2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens TV, streaming schedule

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The Rugby World Cup Sevens, held in the U.S. for the first time, airs live on NBC, NBCSN and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

NBC Sports’ TV coverage totals more than 30 live hours. NBC Sports Gold will also stream live, commercial-free coverage of every match with its “Rugby Pass.”

NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will stream all NBC Sports and Olympic Channel TV coverage.

The Rugby World Cup Sevens is the biggest standalone competition outside of the Olympics for an event that debuted at the Rio Games. Traditional 15-a-side rugby was played at the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924.

Like the Olympics, the World Cup takes place every four years, now in the middle of every Olympic cycle, with men’s and women’s competitions at the same site.

New Zealand is the defending World Cup champion for men and women, though Fiji took the men’s Olympic title and Australia the women’s gold in Rio.

The U.S. finished fifth (women) and sixth (men) in this season’s World Series standings, though the U.S. men won the only World Series leg played in the U.S. in Las Vegas in March.

The U.S. men are led by Perry Baker, the 2017 World Player of the Year, and Carlin Isles, the 2018 World Series leader in tries. The U.S. women feature Naya Tapper and Rio Olympian Alev Kelter, two of the top scorers from the World Series.

The NBC Sports broadcast team includes U.S. Olympian and Super Bowl champion Nate Ebner as a studio analyst. Leigh Diffey and Bill Seward are on play-by-play, and Ahmed Fareed hosts on-site studio coverage.

Former USA Sevens captain Brian Hightower, U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame member Dan Lyle, former Premiership Rugby and English international prop Alex Corbisiero and World Rugby Hall of Famer Phaidra Knight will provide game and studio commentary.

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Day Time (ET) Network Coverage Highlights
Friday 1 p.m. NBC Sports Gold Men’s Qualifiers
4-7 p.m. Olympic Channel Men’s Qualifiers
7 p.m.-1 a.m. NBCSN Women’s Quarters/Men’s Round of 16
Saturday 12:25-3 p.m. Olympic Channel Women’s Semifinal 1
3-5 p.m. NBC Women’s Semifinal 2
5-6 p.m. Olympic Channel Men’s Challenge Quarters
6:30-11:30 p.m. NBCSN Men’s Quarters/Women’s Finals
Sunday 11:55 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Olympic Channel Men’s Bowl/Challenge Semifinals
2:30-5 p.m. NBC Men’s Semifinals
5-7 p.m. Olympic Channel Men’s Bowl Finals
7-10 p.m. NBCSN Men’s Finals

Denis Ten, Olympic medalist figure skater, dies

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Denis Ten, the 2014 Olympic figure skating bronze medalist from Kazakhstan, died after he reportedly was stabbed in Almaty on Thursday.

The International Skating Union and the Kazah Olympic Committee confirmed Ten’s death.

Ten, 25, competed in three Olympics and earned world championships silver and bronze medals in 2013 and 2015.

At 16, Ten was the youngest men’s competitor at Vancouver 2010 and finished 11th in his Olympic debut; he was also only the second singles skater Kazakhstan had ever sent to the Olympics.

Ten made unexpected history in 2013, becoming the first skater from Kazakhstan to win a world championships medal. After experiencing health setbacks at the start of his 2014 Olympic season, he was the biggest question mark among the top men in Sochi, but he surprised by becoming the first skater from Kazakhstan to earn an Olympic medal.

Ten struggled through health issues leading into his last Olympics in PyeongChang, where he placed 27th. Those Winter Games were nonetheless special to Ten, who was of South Korean descent; his great-grandfather was a famous general who fought for Korean independence, and there is a statue and memorial dedicated to him in Wonju, a town 35 miles southwest of PyeongChang.

Ten also played a significant role as an ambassador for his hometown Almaty’s bid for the 2022 Winter Games. Beijing got the Games over Almaty in an IOC members vote in 2015.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.