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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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Alysa Liu, attempting unprecedented jump list, takes silver at Junior Grand Prix Final

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Alysa Liu took silver at the biggest international competition of her young career, attempting a historic set of jumps at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy.

Liu, the 14-year-old who in January became the youngest U.S. senior champion in history, attempted two triple Axels and two quadruple Lutzes in her free skate Friday. She fell on the first Axel, and the other three landings were judged as under-rotated.

Earlier this season, Liu became the first woman to land both a triple Axel and a quad of any kind. She was attempting Friday to become the first woman to land two triple Axels and two quads in one program.

Liu, the leader after Thursday’s short program, was overtaken in the free skate by Russian Kamila Valieva, who was not alive when Turin hosted the 2006 Olympics. Valieva is the latest star pupil of coach Eteri Tutberidze, who guided Olympic and world champions Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva.

Valieva, who has a quad in her arsenal, was recently injured, according to the ISU broadcast, and did not attempt a four-revolution jump. She relied on artistry and other elements, tallying 207.47 points. She beat Liu by 2.82 points to become the 10th straight Russian to win the event.

Liu became the first U.S. woman to earn a Junior Grand Prix Final medal since Hannah Miller took silver in 2012.

Liu, previously undefeated in her first junior international season, appears likeliest to disrupt the Russians come the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. First, she must compete at the junior international level through next season. She is expected to defend her senior national title in January.

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Caroline Wozniacki sets tennis retirement

Caroline Wozniacki
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Former No. 1 and 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki will retire from professional tennis after competing in Melbourne next year.

The 29-year-old from Denmark wrote in an Instagram post on Friday that she wants to start a family with her husband, former NBA player David Lee, and work to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis.

Wozniacki said her decision to stop playing “has nothing to do with my health.” She announced in October 2018 that she has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that can cause pain and swelling in the wrist and other joints.

“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done,” Wozniacki wrote. “In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.”

She is currently ranked No. 37 after going 20-15 without a singles title in 2019.

Coached for much of her career by her father, Piotr, a former professional soccer player, Wozniacki used tremendous court coverage — she ran in the New York City Marathon — and uncanny ability to get back shot after shot from opponents in a counter-punching style to win 30 WTA titles, including the season-ending tour championships in 2017.

She also reached three Grand Slam finals.

At just 19, Wozniacki was the runner-up to Kim Clijsters at the 2009 U.S. Open, then again was the runner-up at Flushing Meadows in 2014 to her good friend Serena Williams.

Wozniacki claimed her first major championship in her third such final, and 43rd appearance in a Grand Slam tournament, at last year’s Australian Open. She beat Simona Halep in a three-set final to return to the top of the rankings after a six-year absence, a record.

As someone who had played so well, for so long, without ever quite claiming one of her sport’s most important trophies until then, Wozniacki was thrilled to set aside all of the questions about whether she ever would win a major title.

She has earned more than $35 million in prize money — along with millions more in endorsements — and owns a win-loss record of 630-262. She spent 71 weeks at No. 1 and competed in three Olympics, carrying the flag for Denmark at the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” she wrote.

The Australian Open begins on Jan. 20.

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I’ve played professionally since I was 15 years old. In that time I’ve experienced an amazing first chapter of my life. With 30 WTA singles titles, a world #1 ranking for 71 weeks, a WTA Finals victory, 3 Olympics, including carrying the flag for my native Denmark, and winning the 2018 Australian Open Grand slam championship, I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court. I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done. In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court. Getting married to David was one of those goals and starting a family with him while continuing to travel the world and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (project upcoming) are all passions of mine moving forward. So with that, today I am announcing that I will be retiring from professional tennis after the Australian Open in January. This has nothing to do with my health and this isn’t a goodbye, I look forward to sharing my exciting journey ahead with all of you! Finally, I want to thank with all my heart, the fans, my friends, my sponsors, my team, especially my father as my coach, my husband, and my family for decades of support! Without all of you I could have never have done this!

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