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Shaun White leads U.S. snowboarders, freeskiers eyeing Olympic spots in Aspen

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It was a rare sight. A U.S. Olympic halfpipe snowboarding qualifier without Shaun White in the final.

That’s what happened at the second of four selection events in Breckenridge, Colo., last month. White was 14th in qualifying when he needed to be top 12.

White’s focus turned to this week’s U.S. Grand Prix in Aspen, Colo., the third of four selection events.

NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will combine to air live coverage of all 10 finals across men’s and women’s snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle and ski halfpipe and slopestyle.

A full live broadcast schedule is at the bottom of this post. NBC and NBCSN will air TV coverage later each day.

White, who was third overall and second among Americans in the first qualifier in December, can only clinch his fourth Olympic berth this week with help (more on qualifying scenarios for all events below).

Still, he’s in strong position to either earn one of three automatic Olympic spots after the last qualifier next week or receive the one committee-chosen selection.

Other U.S. snowboard stars — halfpipe rider Chloe Kim and Sochi slopestyle champ Jamie Anderson — were among the first athletes to clinch Olympic spots last month.

White and 2002 Olympic halfpipe champion Kelly Clark are the two biggest names who can clinch in Aspen.

No freeskiers have clinched Olympic spots yet, but that’s likely to change this weekend.

The fields include Sochi halfpipe gold medalists David Wise and Maddie Bowman and slopestyle champ Joss Christensen, competing for the first time since tearing an ACL and meniscus May 10.

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

Snowboard Halfpipe
Qualifying Standings 
(through two of four events)
1. Ben Ferguson — 1,800* (1st and 2nd)
2. Jake Pates — 1,320* (1st and 8th)
3. Danny Davis — 1,200 (3rd and 3rd)
4. Shaun White — 1,120* (2nd and 8th)
5. Gabe Ferguson — 950 (4th and 5th)
5. Chase Josey — 950 (4th and 5th)

1. Chloe Kim — 2,000* (QUALIFIED)
2. Kelly Clark — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
3. Maddie Mastro — 1,300* (2nd and 4th)
4. Arielle Gold — 1,100* (3rd and 4th)
5. Elena Hight — 850 (5th and 6th)
5. Hannah Teter — 850 (5th and 6th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

Men: It’s very likely at least one man clinches an Olympic berth this week. Ben Ferguson is definitely in with a top-two finish among Americans. Pates, the surprising winner of the second qualifier, is definitely in if he’s the top American, though either rider can also qualify with a lower finish and help. White, who missed the final at the second qualifier, will clinch if he’s the top American and if either Pates or Ferguson is the second-best American.

Women: Clark or Mastro joins Kim on the Olympic team if either is the top American finisher. The pressure is rising on Hight, the reigning X Games champion, and Teter, the 2006 Olympic champion, since the team can be no more than four women total.

Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle (through three of five events)
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED

2. Red Gerard — 1,800* (1st and 2nd)
3. Chandler Hunt — 1,160* (2nd and 7th)
4. Kyle Mack — 1,000* (2nd and 13th)
5. Judd Henkes — 1,100 (3rd and 4th)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,600* (1st and 3rd)
2. Hailey Langland — 1,600* (2nd and 2nd)
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,050 (3rd and 5th)
5. Ty Walker — 1,000 (4th and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.

Men: Gerard clinches if he’s the top American, or if Corning is the top American. Neither Hunt nor Mack can clinch this week, even with a win. 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: It looks like all three Olympic medal favorites are going to PyeongChang. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is in as the top American finisher in the first and third qualifiers. X Games slopestyle champ Marino was the top American in the second qualifier. X Games big air champ Langland was right behind Anderson in the other two. Marino clinches if she’s the top American this week. Langland clinches if she’s the top American and Anderson or Marino is the second American.

Ski Halfpipe (through three of five events)
1. Torin Yater-Wallace — 150* (1st and 4th)
2. David Wise — 132* (1st and 8th)
3. Aaron Blunck — 130* (2nd and 4th)
4. Alex Ferreira — 122* (1st and 12th)
5. Gus Kenworthy — 104* (2nd and 11th)

1. Maddie Bowman — 140** (2nd and 3rd)
2. Devin Logan — 130* (2nd and 4th)
3. Annalisa Drew — 95 (4th and 5th)
4. Brita Sigourney — 90 (4th and 6th)
5. Carly Margulies — 72 (6th and 7th)
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

Men: Sochi Olympian Yater-Wallace came back from life support to win the first qualifier in February. Sochi gold medalist Wise silenced doubters by grabbing his first win in three years in the second qualifier, according to TeamUSA.org. Then Ferreira, who didn’t make the 2014 Olympic team, complicated things by winning the third qualifier. If any of them win this week, they qualify for PyeongChang. Kenworthy, the Sochi slopestyle silver medalist trying to make Pyeongchang in both pipe and slope, needs at least one podium this week or next to have a shot at automatic qualification, or else he’ll hope for the spot(s) available via committee decision. Same goes for Blunck, the reigning X Games champ.

Women: The top four in the standings are all Sochi Olympians, but only Sochi gold medalist Bowman has met the minimum criteria of two podium finishes among the first three qualiifers. Bowman clinches an Olympic berth with a win, or if no more than one American other than Logan makes the podium this week.

Ski Slopestyle (women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150* (1st and 4th)
2. Devin Logan — 82 (4th and 8th)
3. Darian Stevens — 81 (5th and 7th)
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52 (7th and 15th)
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28 (14th and 21st)

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

Men: Goepper will likely clinch with a win in either of the two Aspen finals. Joss Christensen, who led a U.S. podium sweep in Sochi, is expected to return this week from a May 10 ACL and meniscus tear. The U.S. field is loaded with the Sochi medalists Christensen, Kenworthy, Goepper and Brown, plus McRae Williams, the 2017 X Games silver medalist and world champion.

Women: Voisin will clinch her second Olympic berth with a top-two finish in either Aspen final. 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.

 

Aspen Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday
Snowboard Slopestyle — 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)
Ski Halfpipe — 3-4:30 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)
NBCSN coverage from 9:30 p.m.-12 a.m.

Saturday
Ski Slopestyle (#1) — 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)
Snowboard Halfpipe — 3-4:30 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)

Sunday
Ski Slopestyle (#2) — 3-4:30 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)
NBC coverage from 3-4 p.m. of snowboard halfpipe

NBCSN also airs coverage Monday from 1:30-2:30 a.m. ET and 11 p.m.-midnight and Tuesday at midnight.

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VIDEO: Shaun White’s crash that led to 62 face stitches

Mondo Duplantis, Sandi Morris miss attempts at pole vault records

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Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis and U.S. athlete Sandi Morris took turns attempting world records in the pole vault Wednesday at the Meeting d’Athlétsime Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais meet at Arena Stade Regional in Liévin, France, but both were unable to clear the bar.

Duplantis, aiming to set the world record for third time in February, had no misses leading up to his record attempts. U.S. vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has won the last two world championships, cleared 5.90m but dropped out after one attempt at 5.95m. Duplantis passed on that height, then cleared 6.07m to warm up for his shot at 6.19m, just shy of 20 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

Morris’ attempt to tie Jennifer Suhr‘s world indoor record of 5.03m from 2016 was more of a surprise. Morris holds the U.S. outdoor record at 5.00m but had never done better than 4.95m indoors. She won Wednesday’s competition with a clearance of 4.83m and asked to go immediately to 5.03m, or 16 feet, 6 inches.

Yelena Isinbayeva still holds the outdoor record of 5.06m, set in 2009. Morris is second on the all-time list and is the only athlete other than Isinbayeva or Suhr to clear 5 meters either indoors or outdoors.

In the men’s pole vault, Duplantis’ clearance of 6.18m Feb. 15 in Glasgow is the best vault indoors or outdoors.  Sergey Bubka still has the highest clearance outdoors at 6.14m. Bubka also held the indoor record of 6.15m for more than 20 years, finally losing it to Renaud Lavillenie in 2014. Duplantis cleared 6.17m Feb. 9 in Poland, then added another centimeter last week in Glasgow.

READ: Duplantis raises record in Glasgow

Duplantis, Lavillenie and Bubka are the only vaulters to clear 20 feet. Kendricks cleared 6.06m, or 19-10 1/2, last summer, the highest outdoor clearance by anyone other than Bubka.

Duplantis grew up in Louisiana and attended LSU for one year, setting the NCAA indoor (5.92m) and outdoor (6.00m) before turning pro, though he was upset in the NCAA final by South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen.

Also at Wednesday’s meet:

Ronnie Baker ran 6.49 seconds in the 60m semifinals and lowered that to 6.44 in the final, second only to Christian Coleman this season. Demek Kemp finished second and tied his personal best of 6.50.

Nia Ali and Christina Clemons finished 1-2 in the women’s 60m hurdles with identical times of 7.92. Ali is the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the 100m hurdles. She also won world indoor titles in 2014 and 2016.

Two Ethiopian runners set the fastest times of the season Samuel Tefera in the 1,500m (3:35.54) and Getnet Wale in the 3,000m (7:32.80). Wale was fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase in the 2019 world championships.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, racing in his home country of France, won the 60m hurdles in 7.47, second this season to Grant Holloway‘s 7.38 last week.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour ends Friday in Madrid. The world indoor championships originally scheduled for March in Nanjing, China, have been postponed a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Susan Dunklee extends decade of surprises for U.S. biathletes

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When Susan Dunklee‘s time held up for second place in Friday’s 7.5km sprint, she became the first U.S. biathlete to win two world championship medals in her career and earned the sixth medal for the U.S. in world biathlon championship history.

Four of those medals have come in the past eight years.

First was Tim Burke, who had gained some fame among biathlon fans with his three World Cup podiums in the 2009-10 season and his relationship with German biathlete Andrea Henkel, who would win two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships before retiring and marrying Burke.

In that season, Burke led the World Cup briefly but faded and didn’t do well in the Olympics. But in 2012-13, he finished 10th in the World Cup overall and ended the American drought in the world championships, finishing second in the individual behind dominant French biathlete Martin Fourcade, who won his 11th non-relay world title Wednesday in the individual.

In 2017, Dunklee became the first U.S. woman to win a non-relay medal, taking the lead in the mass start after quickly knocking down all five targets in the last shooting and holding on for second. She didn’t come out of nowhere, having taken a few World Cup medals. That season, she ranked 10th overall in the World Cup.

Then came the stunner. Lowell Bailey, who had just one World Cup podium in a long career coming into the 2016-17 season, had bib 100 in the individual, a spot usually reserved for non-contenders. But he hit all 20 targets, always important in a race that penalizes athletes one minute per miss, and gutted it out through the last lap to keep a 3.3-second advantage and win the first world championship for a U.S. biathlete.

Like Dunklee, Bailey earned his medal in the midst of a strong season. The individual was won of his four top-10 finishes in the world championships, including a fourth-place finish in the sprint. He wound up eighth overall in the World Cup.

Bailey and Burke each stuck it out to compete in their fourth Olympics in 2018, then crossed the finish line together in their final race at the U.S. championships.

This season is their first in management. Bailey, also a bluegrass musician, is now U.S. Biathlon’s director of high performance. Burke is director of athlete development.

Dunklee, on the other hand, isn’t done. Her results slipped a bit after her 2017 breakthrough, but she has had some top 10s. When she shoots clean, as she did Friday, she’s a contender.

The first U.S. medal was in the first women’s world championship in 1984, when Holly Beatie, Julie Newman and Kari Swenson bronze in 3x5km relay. Swenson also finished fifth in the individual that year and returned to compete in the next two world championships after a harrowing experience in which she was abducted and shot, a story that inspired a film starring Tracy Pollan.

The only other U.S. medal in the world championships before Burke, Bailey and Dunklee was Josh Thompson‘s individual silver in 1987. The only athletes other than Burke, Bailey, Dunklee and Thompson to have World Cup podiums (excluding relays) are Jeremy Teela in 2009 and Clare Egan, who was third in a mass start last spring and is competing in the world championships this year.

U.S. Paralympians broke through with two gold medals on the first day of competition in the 2018 Paralympics.

READ: Kendall Gretsch, Dan Cnossen take gold

Wednesday saw another surprise finish for a U.S. biathlete. Leif Nordgren, whose career-best finish outside the relays is 16th, was the only athlete to go 20-for-20 on the shooting range and placed eighth in the individual.

The championships continue through through Sunday with the single mixed relay on Thursday, the men’s and women’s relays on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.

WATCH: World biathlon championships TV schedule

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