Scotty James
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Scotty James not huge fan of recent halfpipe judging

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The snowboarder who wears boxing gloves in the halfpipe hit back at the judges on Thursday.

“I feel like there have been times I was a bit shafted,” James said in reference to the judging this season at a press conference in PyeongChang.

The 23-year-old from Australia has consistently finished as the runner-up this season to several different riders. The results from his last three contests: second to Jake Pates at Breckenridge, second to Shaun White at Snowmass, second to Ayumu Hirano at X Games.

While his main rivals, White and Hirano, have been focusing on back-to-back double cork 1440s, James has breaking new ground with his switch backside double cork 1260.

Despite the fact that it has less rotation than White and Hirano’s 1440s, the switch backside 1260 is arguably the most technical trick being done by any halfpipe rider because of how the rider is spinning when they start the trick. Switch backside spins are so difficult that many riders do not even include a single one in their halfpipe runs.

The only rider who has landed the switch backside 1260 is James, and he doesn’t think that trick, or his runs in general, are getting enough respect.

NBCOlympics.com: Scotty James now a top threat for halfpipe gold

“I think the biggest thing that frustrated me is that I have been working my whole life and then some silly people behind a desk dictate some scores,” James said.

Halfpipe runs are not just judged on one trick, of course. Judges are considering the entire package — factoring in things like amplitude, variety and execution — when they input their scores.

But James’ main grievance isn’t necessarily about his own scoring. He admits that he’s had words with the judges about the way they scored another rider. In particular, the perfect 100 that the U.S. Grand Prix judges gave to White at Snowmass in January.

“Not because of getting second place — I am not a sore loser,” James said. “I was just curious as to [why they gave Shaun the perfect 100 score]. Personally, and I have spoken to a lot of other snowboarders, it’s pretty tough to get a perfect score. I didn’t agree with that at all.” (Watch his run)

James’ comments are indicative of a schism between how judges and riders perceive the scoring system.

To the judges, the scoring system is entirely fluid and changes from competition to competition.

Here is how Tom Zikas, head snowboard judge for X Games and other major contests, explained this philosophy:

“The numbers of the actual scores are more about a ranking. The numbers are a vehicle to place these riders how they should have ranked that particular day. So basically from event to event, you can’t say, ‘Well he got a 100, there’s no better run that can be done,’ because snowboarding progresses every day. So we have to adjust our range of scores to every single contest because snowboarding improves. So what is a 90 at an event one day — by the end of the season, a 90 is going to be a much better run.”

According to Zikas, the decision to award a “perfect 100” to a rider is likely the result of the judges believing it to be the best run in snowboarding history — up to that point anyway.

At the next contest, the scale is going to adjust, and that same exact run is likely to get a lower score. At least, that’s theoretically how it works.

From James’ point of view, the notion of “perfection” is not just based on that one day. In a sport where constant progression is ingrained into the culture, he seems to be suggesting that the athletes should always have something more to strive for and that “perfect scores” take away from that.

“I have openly said [to the judges] this is not what you do,” James said. “These perfect scores are great and all, but it’s not really encouraging for us when we go out there and compete. Where do you go from there?

“Shaun, if he looked at that run, he would tell you that wasn’t a perfect 100.”

In competition, just two riders have received a perfect 100: Shaun White (twice) and Chloe Kim. Part of the reason for that is because perfect scores can only be awarded on the final run of the contest. But it could also be argued that Ayumu Hirano’s 99 at X Games last month was a perfect score as well, since judges could not have given him anything higher with one rider still to go.

Despite the criticism, James also made clear that he had a lot of respect for both the judges and for White, even if he disagrees with the way the judges decided to score White at that particular event.

“He achieved a lot of amazing things in snowboarding,” James said of the two-time Olympic champion. “He has been a pioneer in the sport for a long time.”

James, White and Hirano will be the top favorites when the men’s halfpipe competition kicks off Monday night (Tuesday morning in Korea) with the qualifying round.

Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

Hayato Sakamoto
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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.

Sky Brown, 11-year-old Olympic skateboard hopeful, suffers serious injuries in fall

Sky Brown Skateboard Fall
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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old British Olympic skateboarding hopeful, recently suffered her worst fall, requiring surgery, she said in a video posted from a hospital bed.

Brown suffered skull fractures and broke her left wrist and hand and was at first unresponsive upon arrival to a hospital, according to the BBC, which quoted her father.

Video of the fall from a skateboarding ramp was posted on her social media. She appeared to be wearing a helmet in the video.

“I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them because I want people to see the fun in what I do,” Brown said. “But this was my worst fall, and I just want everyone to know that, it’s OK, don’t worry. I’m OK. It’s OK to fall sometimes. I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world right now. I want everyone to know that whatever we do, we’ve just go to do it with love and happiness.”

Brown is the 2019 World bronze medalist in the new Olympic sport’s park discipline.

Later Tuesday, Brown reposted an Instagram post from what appeared to be her father’s account. The caption of that post said Brown fell 15 feet to flat concrete.

“I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital,” the caption read. “We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive.

“4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks.”

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Last week the worst thing I could ever ever imagined happened to @skybrown . She fell about 15ft off the side of a vert ramp to flat concrete. I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital. We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive. We prayed and begged God to give Sky another chance. Word came back while she was still unconscious, multiple fractures to her skull, a broken left arm, which she broke into pieces because she used it to break her fall, broken right fingers and lacerations to her heart and lungs. 4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks. More importantly her Doctors and the trauma team say it’s a miracle how well she is dealing with the pain and recovering incredibly fast. They said it’s shocking and believe it’s because of her grit, positivity and attitude. Skys brother @oceanbrown has been so brave. He saw his sister fall to the ground lying in a pool of blood and was screaming in tears that night outside of the hospital. He has still not allowed into the hospital to see her. They miss each-other dearly, but no siblings are allowed to enter the hospital because of coronavirus. They’ve been spending hours a day on FaceTime with each other making funny faces to one another in fits of giggles and laughter. Sky promises Ocean daily that she will make a fast recovery so they can be together again. Sky is constantly joking and smiling and it’s hurts my heart to even imagine for a second a world without Sky; extremely thankful that I don’t have to. Thank you to the heroes that are the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have tirelessly worked on her and helped her get to this point.

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