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U.S. Olympic snowboard, freestyle skiing qualifying heats up this week

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It’s likely that the first members of the U.S. Olympic snowboard and freestyle skiing teams will emerge from Breckenridge, Colo., this weekend.

Snowboard and ski halfpipe and slopestyle finals are Friday and Saturday, streamed on DewTour.com.

The following athletes will qualify for Pyeongchang with a win in Breckenridge (and might still qualify with a lesser result) as the selection season hits the halfway point:

Ben Ferguson (snowboard halfpipe)
Chloe Kim 
(snowboard halfpipe)
Chris Corning (snowboard slopestyle)
Red Gerard (snowboard slopestyle)
Jamie Anderson (snowboard slopestyle)
Julia Marino 
(snowboard slopestyle)
David Wise (ski halfpipe)
Torin Yater-Wallace (ski halfpipe)
Maddie Bowman (ski halfpipe)
Devin Logan (ski halfpipe)
Maggie Voisin (ski slopestyle)

An event-by-event look at U.S. Olympic qualifying going into Breckenridge:

Snowboard Halfpipe
Qualifying Standings 
(through one of four events)
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.

Men: Ben Ferguson, the 2016 Winter X Games silver medalist, was the surprise top U.S. man at the first Olympic qualifier last week, edging the favorite and two-time Olympic champion White. Ferguson makes the Olympic team if he’s the top American this week, while White would have all but clinched his fourth Olympic trip if he was the top American, but he failed to make the final.

Women: Like Ferguson, Kim will make her first Olympic team with a win this week. She would have made the Sochi roster but was too young at age 13. The two-time X Games champ led a U.S. podium sweep last week with Mastro and the 2002 Olympic champion Clark, who are now the favorites to claim the three automatic Olympic berths available in qualifying. A fourth rider could be chosen via committee after qualifying ends. The U.S. women are so deep that it’s likely two of these three will not make it — 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter, 2017 X Games champion Hight and Sochi Olympian Gold.

Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
Qualifying Standings 
(through two of five events)
1. Red Gerard — 1400*
2. Chris Corning — 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt — 1160*
4. Kyle Mack — 1000*
5. Judd Henkes — 1000

1. Jamie Anderson — 1800*
2. Julia Marino — 1600*
3. Hailey Langland — 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson — 1050
5. Nora Healey — 950
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

Men: The first two qualifiers produced very different results. Gerard won the opener last winter but was 12th last week. Corning was 37th last winter and second last week as the top American. It’s really wide open given no U.S. man has made an X Games Aspen podium in slopestyle or big air since 2012, and Sochi Olympic champion Sage Kotsenburg has retired.

Women: In contrast to the men, the U.S. has three medal contenders. All of them have performed well so far in qualifying. Sochi slopestyle gold medalist Anderson and X Games big air champ Langland went one-two at the first qualifier in February. Marino, the X Games slopestyle champ, was second last week as the top American. It would be a surprise if anybody else snatched one of the three automatic Olympic spots from them.

Ski Halfpipe 
Qualifying Standings 
(through two of five events)
1. Torin Yater-Wallace — 145*
2. David Wise — 132*
3. Gus Kenworthy — 94*
4. Aaron Blunck — 82
5. Taylor Seaton — 64*

1. Maddie Bowman — 125*
2. Annalisa Drew — 95
3. Brita Sigourney — 90
4. Devin Logan — 81*
5. Carly Margulies — 72
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

Men: Sochi gold medalist Wise silenced doubters last week by grabbing his first win in three years, according to TeamUSA.org. Sochi teammate Yater-Wallace came back from life support to win the first qualifier in February. Their victories put the pressure on reigning X Games champion Blunck and Kenworthy, the Sochi slopestyle silver medalist trying to make Pyeongchang in both pipe and slope. Like in snowboard, three automatic berths are available and a committee could put a fourth man on the team via discretionary selection.

Women: Olympic silver medalist Marie Martinod won the first two qualifiers, but she’s French. Sochi champ Bowman was second in February; Logan, the Sochi slopestyle silver medalist, was second last week. The top four in the standings are all Sochi Olympians.

Ski Slopestyle
Qualifying Standings 
(through one of five events)
1. Maggie Voisin — 100*
2. Devin Logan — 50
3. Darian Stevens — 45
4. Taylor Lundquist — 36
5. Keri Herman — 22
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.
Dew Tour will be the first men’s ski slopestyle qualifier.

Men: The men weren’t able to overcome poor weather at the first scheduled ski slopestyle qualifier in February. Olympic gold medalist Joss Christensen, who led a U.S. podium sweep in Sochi, remains sidelined from competition after a May 10 ACL and meniscus tear but plans to return for the next qualifier in January. The top American last season was McRae Williams, who missed the Sochi team. Williams won silver at X Games in January and gold at the world championships in March.

Women: Voisin won the first qualifier in February, putting her in strong position to make a second Olympic team. She would have been the youngest U.S. competitor across all sports in Sochi, but Voisin fractured her right fibula in practice the day of the Opening Ceremony. No U.S. woman made the podium at either of the last two X Games, but the two-time reigning X Games champ Kelly Sildaru of Estonia will miss the Olympics due to knee surgery.

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Breckenridge Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday
Men’s Ski Halfpipe — 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Women’s Ski Halfpipe — 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe — 4:15-5 p.m.

Saturday
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 11-11:45 a.m.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle — 12:15-1:30 p.m.
Men’s Ski Slopestyle — 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Women’s Ski Slopestyle — 4:15-5 p.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Joss Christensen is competing at Breckenridge.

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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