David Wise, Maddie Bowman make Olympics; Gus Kenworthy on bubble

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David Wise and Maddie Bowman won the first Olympic ski halfpipe golds in Sochi. On Friday, they became the first U.S. halfpipe skiers to qualify for PyeongChang.

Wise won for the second time in the first four Olympic qualifiers, this time as part of an American sweep.

Bowman finished fourth in Snowmass, Colo., but she clinched her Olympic spot from having two podiums in the previous three qualifiers.

Neither Wise nor Bowman has to sweat out the fifth and final qualifier next week.

Sochi slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy can’t say the same. He finished seventh Friday, after placing second, 11th and 17th in the first three halfpipe qualifiers.

Kenworthy fell on his first hit on two of his three runs, with one of his skis falling off on the landing both times.

Kenworthy must finish first or second next week to have a shot at automatic halfpipe qualification.

If he doesn’t, Kenworthy will put himself in the same position as four years ago, hoping a committee uses one available spot to put him on the team.

Kenworthy was left off four years ago in favor of Torin Yater-Wallace but of course still qualified in slopestyle.

Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck finished second and third on Friday to reach the automatic Olympic qualification minimum but can’t clinch a berth until next week.

Still, they’re both ahead of Kenworthy. As is Yater-Wallace, who won the first Olympic qualifier last February but didn’t make the final in Snowmass.

A maximum of four U.S. men can make the Olympic ski halfpipe team.

Kenworthy competes in a slopestyle qualifier Sunday in Snowmass. A full broadcast schedule is here.

Wise, 27, went three years between victories when he won an Olympic qualifier last month, according to TeamUSA.org.

The father of two struggled last season with a back injury and concussion but now looks like an Olympic medal favorite again.

Bowman, who turned 24 on Wednesday, is going back to the Olympics after a trying four years.

She underwent May 2014 left knee surgery, then tore her right ACL in January 2015. Still, she managed to win her third and fourth straight Winter X Games titles in 2015 and 2016.

Last season, Bowman’s streak was snapped by Frenchwoman Marie Martinod, who returned from a five-year break to win Olympic silver in 2014.

Martinod, a 33-year-old mom, made the podium in all of her events last season, including titles at X Games and the Olympic test event in South Korea.

This season, Bowman and Martinod have gone head-to-head four times, with Martinod finishing higher at every event until she was eliminated in qualifying this week.

But the most impressive skier this season has been Canadian Cassie Sharpe, who would have won Friday with any of the scores from her three runs — 91.60, 90.8 and 93.2. Sharpe also won the previous U.S. Olympic qualifier last month.

Bowman will be joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Sochi ski slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan and Sochi Olympian Brita Sigourney, should they finish on the podium next week.

Even if they don’t, Logan and Sigourney have the best resumés of the remaining U.S. women. The team will include three or four women.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Halfpipe 
(through four of five events)
1. David Wise — 200** QUALIFIED

2. Alex Ferreira — 180** (1st and 2nd)
3. Aaron Blunck — 140** (2nd and 3rd)
4. Torin Yater-Wallace — 150* (1st and 4th)
5. Gus Kenworthy — 116* (2nd and 7th)

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

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

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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