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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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Iran banned from judo for instructing athlete to withdraw rather than face Israel opponent

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Iran has been banned from international judo for instructing one of its athletes to withdraw from August’s world championships rather than face an Israeli judoka.

The International Judo Federation said Iran authorities instructing Saeid Mollaei to withdraw rather than face Israeli judoka Sagi Muki was “a serious breach and gross violation” of its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

IJF spokesman Vlad Marinescu said any ban won’t apply to the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because it’s the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the Iranian Judo Federation, which formally enters the Olympic team.

“We have been informed by IJF that they will launch a proper procedure giving all concerned parties the right to be heard,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said. “Should the issue become an Olympic issue we will take the result of this procedure into consideration.”

An IJF disciplinary commission said it “has a strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct” given its history of similar actions with its athletes potentially facing Israelis.

Mollaei, a 2018 World champion, said he was afraid to return to Iran after disobeying those orders at worlds. He competed anyway but lost one round before a potential final with Muki.

“I want to compete wherever I can,” Mollaei said in a statement from the IJF. “I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life.

“I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid.”

The IJF said it would help Mollaei prepare for next year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo. If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes.

Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis, which the country does not recognize. The IJF has said Iranians have thrown matches and used “questionable injuries” to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei’s case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Salehi Amiri pledging to “fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

Back in August, Iranian Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar accused the IJF of trying to “create problems” with Mollaei, the IRNA news agency reported. He said Iran will send a protest letter to the IOC.

Iranian team manager Majid Zareian also criticized the IJF, saying “everything was set in advance to put Mollaei against a participant from (Israel).”

“They did not allow me to be present next to my athlete in exercise salon,” Zareian said. “After the competitions they changed hotel of Mollaei without my permission, against the regulations.”

He denied reports Iranian authorities had put pressure on Mollaei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jacarra Winchester, after foe bites her, wins first wrestling world title

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Jacarra Winchester missed the Rio Olympic wrestling trials after tearing her knee playing soccer. She missed a medal at the 2018 World Championships after a semifinal-winning takedown was reversed.

There was no denying her on Wednesday.

Winchester, who picked up wrestling a decade ago as a high school junior, became the first American to earn a medal at the worlds in Kazakhstan this week. And it was gold.

She came back to beat Japanese Nanami Irie 5-3 in the final of the 55kg division, a weight class that is not on the Olympic program. Winchester must move to 53kg or 57kg next year.

But for now she can celebrate quite a journey. At 26, she’s one of the older wrestlers to become a first-time world champion. She believed she had what it took last year, when a reversed call kept her from the final and she subsequently lost a bronze-medal match.

Winchester, who has problems sleeping, said she replayed the end of that semifinal in her head ever since.

“There’s no reason why I should have gotten beat,” she said Wednesday. “Clearly I have what I need on the mat. I just need to change my mindset. … Just knowing you’re the best, pushing yourself and not letting anything get to me.”

That helped in Tuesday’s semifinals, where Winchester said her Turkish opponent bit her, pulled her hair and twisted her fingers. Winchester, who grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, said that when she started wrestling she had no Olympic goals.

“I had a mindset of I’m not a quitter,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Adeline Gray reached Thursday’s 76kg final, where she will try to become the first American to earn five world titles.

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