Iouri Podladtchikov
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Iouri Podladtchikov stretchered off after X Games crash

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ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Olympic champion snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov slammed his face against the halfpipe and had to be carted off the course Sunday at the Winter X Games in an accident that provided a jarring look at the stakes involved in landing a gold-medal run.

Video is here.

Podladtchikov was taken to the hospital, where scans for brain and neck injuries came back negative. X Games officials said he suffered a broken nose and was awake and alert late Sunday night.

The 29-year-old rider better known as the I-Pod was at the end of his second run, trying to complete what had been a clean and high-flying trip with a 1260-degree flip.

As he was gliding back into the pipe, he lost his bearings and his legs crumpled, then his face smacked against the lower part of the halfpipe wall and he slid, motionless, to the bottom.

Medical personnel took about 20 minutes to stabilize Podladtchikov’s neck and strap him into a sled to be taken to the hospital.

“It was terrible. You don’t really know how he’s doing,” said eighth-place finisher Jake Pates, who was the next rider to go after the injury. “He wasn’t moving, there was a crowd of people around him. You can’t help but feel for him. Definitely gets your stomach turned, gets you in a weird head space.”

Immediately, thoughts of Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a practice in 2009, and of halfpipe skier Sarah Burke, who died in a practice in 2012, came to mind.

This accident wasn’t as severe, but the fact it happened in a nationally televised contest — the biggest this side of the Olympics — brought the dangers of the halfpipe to the fore, only two weeks before the Olympics.

“It’s part of it, for sure,” said American Ben Ferguson, who will be in PyeongChang. “People take digs, and you just have to be smart about it. You know you take a risk and you just do what you’ve got to do.”

Indeed, not even the scare of the injury could stop the riders from raising the stakes in the last contest before most of them head to South Korea for the Olympics.

Less than 30 minutes after silence enveloped the previously raucous halfpipe, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist, nailed one of the most daunting runs ever seen — landing back-to-back 1440-degree spins en route to a winning score of 99.

It was I-Pod who landed the first 1440 — the Yolo Flip — in a contest.

That was five years ago with the Sochi Olympics approaching. Podladtchikov’s feat sent two-time Olympic champion Shaun White to work trying to duplicate it. By the end of 2014, they were the only two riders to land it in a competition.

At Sunday’s contest alone, and with White back home in California watching the event, there were three who could — Podladtchikov, Hirano and 17-year-old Toby Miller, who landed it twice on his way to a fifth-place finish.

Those who weren’t gunning for that trick were upping the stakes in other ways.

Australia’s Scotty James, who will contend for the gold in Korea along with White and Hirano, twice completed runs that included three versions of double-cork 1260, including the switch backside 12, in which he rides backward into the wall of the pipe before taking off for two full rotations.

He finished second with a score of 98.

“It kind of speaks for itself,” James said of his trick. “That’s why no one spins switch backside in the halfpipe.”

James said he’ll keep trying his trick. Hirano and White will push on with their 1440s. And if Sunday’s contest was any indication, the halfpipe contest in PyeongChang could be an all-timer.

But one that could go on without the defending champion, Podladtchikov.

“It almost felt like I was the one getting hurt, as well,” Hirano said through a translator. “It did put a little fear in me.”

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MORE: Shaun White pulls out of X Games to rest for Olympics

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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