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Chloe Kim leads U.S. sweep at X Games

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ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Chloe Kim got the win, of course.

The other women on the Winter X Games halfpipe put on quite a show, too, and delivered a message: They’re not going to just hand Kim the gold medal 2 1/2 weeks from now at the PyeongChang Olympics.

The 17-year-old Olympic favorite delivered on a pressure-packed final run Saturday night, coming through with her patented back-to-back 1080 jumps (video here) to edge out Arielle Gold, who just moments earlier made it through a difficult run that she had never landed in competition.

Full results are here.

“I like being in a situation like that, if that makes any sense,” Kim said. “It makes me more hungry to land a run, and especially to land back-to-back 10s.'”

Maddie Mastro stomped her first 1080 in competition to rise to third place and also make clear that if Kim isn’t at her best in PyeongChang, she might be ready to take the gold, too. Video is here.

“It felt pretty crazy, pretty surreal,” Mastro said. “It happened so quickly. I didn’t know what was happening, I was in the air and then on my feet and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I landed it.'”

Yet another American Olympian, Kelly Clark, finished fourth and was not there for the dramatic third and final round after hitting the deck hard on her second run and checking out with a left knee injury.

Kim won her third Winter X gold medal with a score of 93.33, one point better than Gold, the 21-year-old who, four years ago in Sochi, was on her final training run when she skidded out, fell hard and separated her shoulder.

Gold briefly grabbed first place with a run that included a frontside 1080, a pair of 900-degree spins and one vault that took her 11 feet, 2 inches above the lip of the halfpipe. Video is here.

It applied a rare bit of pressure on Kim, who has been running away in contests as the only woman who can land the back-to-back 1080s.

“I like doing that,” Gold said. “I don’t think she feels it enough. We’re good buds. That’s what snowboarding is about, pushing each other to be the best.”

Kim had led after two rounds despite not landing the back-to-back 1080s either time.

But she saved the best for last. Her first jump out of the pipe was the night’s highest — 14 feet, 1 inch above the 22-foot wall — and then she completed the frontside 10-Cab 10 combo that had been bedeviling her all evening.

“Thanks to Arielle for putting me in that situation where I wanted to do it more than ever,” Kim said. “But more importantly, I’m so happy for her. I almost cried tears of joy when she landed. I was so stoked for her, just watching her work so hard and it paying off.”

If it was a preview of what’s to come at the Olympics, then the final there, on Feb. 13, will be must-see viewing.

“I think everyone is just progressing so quick and so fast,” Mastro said. “Anything can happen.”

Earlier Saturday, Olympian Maggie Voisin became the first American woman to win an X Games ski slopestyle title.

She beat a field that included fellow Olympic medal contenders Tess Ledeux of France and Johanne Killi of Norway.

Full results are here.

Norway’s Marcus Kleveland won men’s snowboard slopestyle, while Austrian Anna Gasser took women’s snowboard big air.

American Jamie Anderson was third in the latter, earning her 15th X Games medal to break her tied with Clark for the female record.

X Games concludes Sunday, highlighted by the men’s snowboard halfpipe final.

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40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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With four former champions in the mix, who can claim U.S. Championships pairs’ title?

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There have been four different U.S. pairs’ champions in the past four years. All four of those teams are in the field at this week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. With that in mind, who could get the nod to compete at the world championships in March?

The U.S. has two spots to fill, thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, who finished ninth at last year’s worlds.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier had the best fall of any U.S. pair, winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series. Denney and Frazier finished with silver medals at last year’s national championships, too. The team has previous experience at the world championships (2015: 12th; 2017: 20th).

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title last year after a season that was nearly sidelined by Cain-Gribble’s concussion in December 2018. As the solo U.S. representatives at the world championships, they succeeded in earning back two world berths for 2020.

This season, they won two B-level competitions and finished fourth and fifth at their Grand Prix assignments. LeDuc said last week that despite their win at Golden Spin in December, “there was a little bit of room for improvement, which is exactly what we want from a competition going into nationals.”

“We feel like we’ve improved a lot as far as what we’re able to take on mentally because we know that this is going to be an intense week,” Cain-Gribble said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve never had to do this before, where we’re coming in and we’re already the reigning champions. We’ve never come in with that title before. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about it and what that feeling is, but overall their main thing was, ‘Be prepared. Prepare yourself beyond what you can even imagine. When you get there, just go on autopilot and do your thing.’”

PyeongChang Olympic team event bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim haven’t been in top form since the Games. Later in 2018, they split from short-lived coach Aljona Savchenko in Germany and moved to California.

They finished an all-time low of seventh at last year’s nationals and were not assigned to any events later in the season. In their off-season, Chris underwent wrist surgery. The couple also added Rafael Arutunian to their coaching team to address their jumping abilities. Their season consisted of a silver medal at a B-level competition, followed by two Grand Prix assignments where they finished fourth and seventh.

“We feel that many people probably have kind of written us off, because we’re an old married couple and we’re kind of labeled ‘can’t get it together,’” Scimeca Knierim said after finishing fourth at Skate Canada this fall. “That’s almost an advantage, because I feel like for so long, we were considered the front-runners. I still believe we are. We’re trying to show we can get it together.”

The last time the Knierims competed at a nationals in Greensboro, in 2015, they won the first of their two titles. That year, they notched their highest placement (seventh) across five total trips to the world championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea won their national title in 2016 and were also sent on their only trip to the world championships where they finished 13th. In 2017, Kayne underwent knee surgery, but they returned to the national podium in 2018 and won silver. Last year, they finished fourth after a disastrous free skate.

This season, they collected a silver medals and a fourth place finish at two B-level competitions as well as a pair of sixth-place finishes on the Grand Prix.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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