Chloe Kim wins, Shaun White third to open Olympic qualifying (video)

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Chloe Kim and Shaun White took strong steps toward making the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team on Saturday.

Kim won the first Pyeongchang qualifier at Copper Mountain, Colo., while White finished third (and second among Americans).

They’ve met the qualifying minimum for automatic Olympic selection — a top-three finish in one of the four selection events — but haven’t clinched spots yet.

Kim landed a 1080 en route to her 93.75-point winner on her first of three runs, leading a U.S. podium sweep with fellow 17-year-old Maddie Mastro (90.75) and 2002 Olympic champion Kelly Clark (83.75).

“I almost cried,” Kim said after collapsing to the ground in the finish corral. “I’m OK. My mascara’s still on.”

Kim, who won seven straight contests from January 2016 to January 2017, has reclaimed her dominance after a stretch last season when she lost three straight events (and had a trip to the ER in South Korea among them).

Kim’s accolades include youngest Winter X Games halfpipe champion (age 14 in 2015), the only woman to score a perfect 100 and the only woman to land back-to-back 1080s.

She would have made the 2014 Olympic team but didn’t meet the age minimum.

Olympic silver medalist Ayumu Hirano won the men’s event with 95.25 points on Saturday. He launched a frontside 1440 indy into a cab double cork 1080 mute to frontside 1260 indy, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS).

The Japanese rider attempted to become the first man to land back-to-back 1440s in his last run, according to commentators, but washed out.

Ben Ferguson was second with 89.75, followed by White with 89.25.

White, bidding to make his fourth Olympic team after two significant preseason crashes, landed a 1260 and a 1440 in his third and final run but did not improve his standing.

“I really thought that I was going to bump up my score in my third run with the [1440], double [1080] and a double [1260], so I’m a little bit disappointed,” White said, according to FIS.

Ferguson, 22 and the 2016 X Games silver medalist, is in very strong position to make his first Olympic team.

Copper Results: Men | Women

No more than three men and three women can clinch Olympic berths via one top-three finish among the four qualifiers, so tiebreakers could come into play. The tiebreaker is best two finishes, so a pair of wins seals the deal and a first and a second would likely be enough, too.

The U.S. Olympic halfpipe teams can include up to four men and four women, depending on how U.S. Ski & Snowboard decides to allocate its snowboarding quota spots across all disciplines. The last male and female spot would be via discretionary selection by a committee.

The U.S. Grand Prix Olympic qualifier at Copper Mountain concludes with snowboard big air finals Sunday.

The next snowboard halfpipe qualifier is next week at Breckenridge, Colo.

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MORE: Shaun White details crash that led to 62 stitches

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Halfpipe
1. Ben Ferguson — 1000*
2. Shaun White — 800*
3. Danny Davis — 600
4. Gabe Ferguson — 500
5. Chase Josey — 450

1. Chloe Kim — 1000*
2. Maddie Mastro — 800*
3. Kelly Clark — 600*
4. Arielle Gold — 500
5. Elena Hight — 450

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Finals
Saturday

Snowboard Halfpipe
4 p.m. ET — NBC, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app

Ski Halfpipe
1 p.m. ET — NBC, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app (from Friday)

Sunday
Snowboard Big Air
1 p.m. ET — NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app — LIVE
8 p.m. ET — NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app

Tokyo Paralympic medals unveiled with historic Braille design, indentations

Tokyo Paralympic Medals
Tokyo 2020
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The Tokyo Paralympic medals, which like the Olympic medals are created in part with metals from recycled cell phones and other small electronics, were unveiled on Sunday, one year out from the Opening Ceremony.

In a first for the Paralympics, each medal has one to three indentation(s) on its side to distinguish its color by touch — one for gold, two silver and three for bronze. Braille letters also spell out “Tokyo 2020” on each medal’s face.

For Rio, different amounts of tiny steel balls were put inside the medals based on their color, so that when shaken they would make distinct sounds. Visually impaired athletes could shake the medals next to their ears to determine the color.

More on the design from Tokyo 2020:

The design is centered around the motif of a traditional Japanese fan, depicting the Paralympic Games as the source of a fresh new wind refreshing the world as well as a shared experience connecting diverse hearts and minds. The kaname, or pivot point, holds all parts of the fan together; here it represents Para athletes bringing people together regardless of nationality or ethnicity. Motifs on the leaves of the fan depict the vitality of people’s hearts and symbolize Japan’s captivating and life-giving natural environment in the form of rocks, flowers, wood, leaves, and water. These are applied with a variety of techniques, producing a textured surface that makes the medals compelling to touch.

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Tokyo Paralympic Medals

Tokyo Paralympic Medals

Alysa Liu lands quad Lutz

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Alysa Liu, a 14-year-old who in January became the youngest U.S. women’s figure skating champion, on Saturday landed a quadruple Lutz, something no other U.S. woman has done in competition.

Liu landed the jump at the Aurora Games, a women’s sports festival in Albany, N.Y. It does not count officially, since it’s not a sanctioned competition.

Previously, Sasha Cohen landed a quadruple Salchow in practice in 2001, but never in competition. At least three Russian teens landed quads in junior competition in the last two years.

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva became the first woman to land a clean, fully rotated quad in senior competition en route to silver at last season’s world championships.

Liu, who landed three triple Axels between two programs at January’s nationals, makes her junior international debut at a Grand Prix stop in Lake Placid, N.Y., next week.

She will not meet the age minimum for senior international competitions until the 2022 Olympic season. But she can continue to compete at senior nationals.

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