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Why isn’t one of world’s best snowboarders in PyeongChang?

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Some projected Yuki Kadono to win an Olympic medal, but the Japanese snowboarder isn’t even on the entry list.

Kadono made his fourth X Games Aspen big air podium in the last five years two weeks ago. He is the first man to land back-to-back triple cork 1620s and believed to be the only one to land a quadruple cork 1980 (though not in a contest).

Yet he has not competed in an International Ski Federation event (like a World Cup or world championships) since August 2015, making him ineligible for the Olympics.

The Japanese Olympic Committee did not detail why when asked about it Wednesday. Kadono and Japan’s snowboard federation have not responded to Facebook messages or an email asking the same question.

But others have. A man with Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers company in PyeongChang and Olympic big air medal favorite Max Parrot of Canada, in separate interviews, said that Kadono violated Japanese law while he was in the U.S.

“His federation, they didn’t like it, so they kicked him off the national team,” said Parrot, the three-time reigning X Games big air champion. “His career for that ended. But we have other contests like Dew Tour, X Games, so he can still participate in those ones.”

Three other Canadian riders said they didn’t know the exact violation, but they knew there was an issue between Kadono and the Japanese federation.

The absence of the 21-year-old Kadono from slopestyle starting with qualifying Friday night (ET) and the new Olympic event of big air in two weeks is felt by the medal favorites.

“I’ve gotten to know Yuki pretty well over the last four years, and it is really tough not having him here,” said Mark McMorris, a four-time X Games Aspen slopestyle champion. “Japan’s obviously a really strict nation not letting him come. It’s kind of their loss at the end of the day. The kid’s so nice, such a great representative of snowboarding. He’s a really polite kid. It’s too bad.”

NBCOlympics.com: How to watch every snowboarding competition

For McMorris, the episode reminds him of Kazuhiro Kokubo, the Japanese rider who was barred from the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony by his federation for showing up in Vancouver with his shirt untucked, tie loosened and pants sagging below his waist.

Kadono’s violation is not believed to be along those lines.

“It’s an honor thing,” NBC Olympics analyst Todd Richards said. “The Japanese team, they don’t screw around.”

The Canadians could sweep big air or slopestyle in PyeongChang, but they would rather do it with the groundbreaking Japanese rider in the field.

“If he was here, he could definitely be a medal contender in big air and slope,” said Tyler Nicholson, the 2017 X Games slopestyle silver medalist from Ontario. “He’s done one of the gnarliest snowboard tricks that’s ever been done, a backside quadruple cork 1980. When I saw that, I was just mind-blown. … He did 16 to 16 [at the 2015 U.S. Open]. It still hasn’t been done [since]. Maybe at this event you’ll see it from some of the dudes, but not Yuki, unfortunately.”

Geraint Thomas attacks, takes Tour de France lead ahead of Chris Froome

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British Olympic track cycling champion Geraint Thomas grabbed the Tour de France lead, attacking with three and a half miles to win a summit finish on Stage 11 on Wednesday.

Thomas now leads a Team Sky one-two in the overall standings, 85 seconds ahead of four-time Tour winner Chris Froome, as the three-week Grand Tour passed the halfway mark.

Thomas continues to say he’s riding in support of Froome — who could tie the record of five Tour titles — rather than to win cycling’s biggest event himself.

“Froome is the [Team Sky] leader here, so there’s no pressure on me,” Thomas said Tuesday, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It’s a bonus for me to be up there, and hopefully I can be there for as long as possible.”

The Tour continues Thursday with stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

The 109-mile stage features three beyond-category climbs — Col de la Madeleine, Croix-de-Fer and the iconic Alpe d’Huez finish after 21 switchbacks to close out the Tour’s three days in the Alps. The overall standings are sure to change.

Greg Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, went into Wednesday with the yellow jersey and a 2:22 lead, which he had tripled on the first mountain day Tuesday.

But Van Avermaet, who predicted he would lose the yellow jersey before stages Tuesday and Wednesday, cracked on the second of three major climbs Wednesday. He finished in a group 22 minutes after Thomas.

Van Avermaet is a super one-day racer but not a strong climber.

Thomas showed his climbing prowess, finishing 20 seconds ahead of 2017 Giro d’Italia champion Tom Dumoulin and Froome.

“It’s unreal,” Thomas said. “I didn’t expect it at all.”

Thomas dons the yellow jersey for a second straight Tour. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic track cycling gold medalist won the opening time trial in 2017 and wore the maillot jaune four days before Froome took over en route to his fourth title in Paris.

There was talk before and during this year’s Tour that Thomas could challenge Froome as Sky’s team leader, even though Froome has won the last three Grand Tours.

But Thomas and Sky have played that down.

“Whatever happens now is bonus,” Thomas said. “Froomey’s won six Grand Tours. He knows how to race over three weeks. For me, it’s an unknown. … As long as one of us wins, that’s the main thing.”

Dumoulin moved into third overall, 1:44 behind Thomas and 19 seconds back of Froome.

The other top contenders — 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet — finished 59 seconds behind Thomas on Wednesday.

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics add 7 new events

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Seven new events were added to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic program:

Women’s monobobsled
Short track mixed team relay
Ski jumping mixed team event
Freestyle skiing big air (men and women)
Aerials mixed team event
Snowboard cross mixed team event

The additions bring the Winter Olympic total number of events to 109, an all-time high and nearly double the amount of events at the 1992 Winter Games.

The number of women’s hockey teams will increase from eight to 10 in 2022, but the overall number of athletes is expected to be fewer than the 2,933 in PyeongChang. The International Olympic Committee said athlete quotas will decrease in some sports, but no events have been contracted. Alpine skiing’s super combined events are still under review as to whether they will remain in the Olympic program.

The IOC said the Winter Olympics will have its highest-ever gender balance in 2022, rising from 41 percent female athletes to more than 45 percent.

The IOC had a “long discussion” about adding a women’s event in Nordic combined, the only sport without a women’s event in the Winter Games, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

“Nordic combined, and women’s in particular, still need to be developed further in terms of universality [the number of countries with Olympic-level athletes], in terms of the level of the athletes,” McConnell said.

The IOC also weighed whether to add a four-woman bobsled event rather than women’s monobobsled. The Games have two-man and two-woman events and a four-man event.

McConnell said the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation was “very supportive” of monobob, in part because it is already on the Youth Olympic program.

“Woman’s four-man bob costs three or four times of monobob,” McConnell said. “We felt there would be more universality in the women’s monobob. We really didn’t see more than a handful of countries really developing women’s four-man programs because of the costs involved.”

Beijing will mark the third straight Winter Olympics to add mixed-gender events. In 2014, mixed relays in biathlon and luge debuted, as well as the figure skating team event. In PyeongChang, a mixed Alpine skiing team event and mixed doubles curling debuted.

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