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.

Nathan Chen calls 3 quads at Skate America ‘a given’

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When Nathan Chen won Skate America in 2017, he competed two quadruple jumps in the short program and one downgraded quad in the free skate.

When Chen won the event in 2018, he did one under-rotated quad (which was also given an edge call) in the short and three in the free.

For Skate America this weekend (Oct. 18-20, streaming live on the NBC Sports “Figure Skating Pass”), two-time and reigning world champion Chen told reporters on Monday’s media teleconference that three quads in the free skate was “a given.”

“Honestly, I don’t really know exactly,” Chen said, after admitting he gets asked this question a lot and usually ends up giving a “vague” answer. “I have ideas. I want to push three. I want to push four… As of now, I think three is a given. But beyond that, we’ll see.”

Chen completed six quads to win the free skate at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where he ultimately finished fifth.

He’ll skate to La Boheme for the short program in Las Vegas, choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, and selections from “Rocket Man” for the free skate, choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil. Bourne is a former ice dancer and choreographs programs for many singles skaters as well as pair teams. Dubreuil is a noted former ice dancer and current dance coach, training the top teams in the world at her school in Montreal.

Chen explained that both of the choices were the choreographers’ picks, and he had to sit on the music for a day or two before committing to skating to it. Ultimately, he likes when choreographers are able to find something that they think suits him.

“I love to listen to Elton John,” Chen said. “I don’t necessarily feel as though I’m an embodiment of his character, per se. But I do feel that no matter how you listen to music there are always many ways to interpret it. The way that we’re approaching it is not necessarily that I’m trying to be Elton John but mostly that we’re trying to interpret his music and share his music.”

And compared to last season, when he was a freshman at Yale University, classes this time around are “a lot harder,” the sophomore said. In general though, he’s a lot more comfortable trying to balance both skating and his studies.

“Skating is always tough, always a challenge,” he said. “But I would say, relative to last season, skating might be a little bit on the easier side. I think classes are definitely a lot harder… You have to really grind for a long period of time or else you don’t do well.”

Luckily for Chen, Skate America is aligned with Yale’s scheduled fall break.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast 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. Check out a free trial of the Figure Skating Pass during Skate America from Oct. 18-20. 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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Simone Biles reveals one thing she cannot do: Wear all her medals at once

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Three days after raising the record for world championship medals to 25, Simone Biles said her career total is a bit too much to wear at once.

“I’ve worn all five of them (from one world championship) for one time, but they’re pretty heavy, so I can’t imagine 25,” Biles said Wednesday on the “Today” show.

MORE: Mother and daughter share world championship experience

Last week, Biles became the first gymnast to win five gold medals at the world championships. She and her teammates ran away with the team gold, and she won the all-around by a staggering 2.1 points. She then won the vault, balance beam and floor exercise. Only a fifth-place finish in the uneven bars kept her from a sweep.

One event that stood out for her was the ever-challenging balance beam.

“Out of all of my performances this past week, the beam performance was one of my favorites, because I did it exactly like practice, and that’s what I’ve been training to do,” Biles said. “So it definitely helped my confidence.”

GYM WORLDS: Finals Results

Biles had her breakout performance at age 18, her first year in senior competition, in the 2013 world championships with a four-medal performance, including gold in the all-around and floor exercise. In 2014, she won those events again, along with the team event and the balance beam, and added a fifth medal on the vault. She matched that performance in 2015, then switched the vault and beam in her four-gold, five-medal performance in the 2016 Olympics.

After a post-Olympic break, she returned for the 2018 world championships to win medals in all six events, including four golds and a silver on the uneven bars, historically her least successful event.

She didn’t win six medals this year, but she took five golds for the first time. This year’s championships are also special because they’re almost certainly her last, with next year’s Olympics expected to be her last major competition.

Given all that, she’ll make more of an effort to go back and watch what she did.

“Most of the time I don’t want to see it, but this world championships was one of the best out of all five of them, so I definitely wanted to see my performances, so afterward, I would go and try to find it with my coach,” Biles said.

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