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Chloe Kim soars to gold in women’s halfpipe

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Chloe Kim’s coronation is complete.

The 17-year-old from Torrance, California, dominated the Olympic women’s halfpipe snowboarding final on Tuesday, soaring to a gold medal four years in the making.

Kim put up a score of 93.75 on the first of her three finals runs and then bettered it with a near-perfect 98.75 on her last run with the gold already well in hand. With members of her family in the stands, including her South Korean grandmother, Kim put on a show that delivered on her considerable pre-Olympic hype.

Liu Jiayu took silver with an 89.75 to become the first Chinese snowboarder to medal at the Olympics.

American Arielle Gold, who pondered retirement last summer, edged teammate and three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark for bronze.

VIDEO: Watch Chloe Kim’s gold-clinching run

Kim’s parents were born in South Korea and moved to the United States, putting their daughter in an interesting position heading into her first Olympics.

While she understands the urge to build a narrative around her that turns her into a connective tissue of sorts between the host country and the one she calls home, it’s one she has politely sidestepped. She views herself as just a kid from Southern California who likes music, the mall, ice cream and, oh, by the way, putting down the kind of gravity-escaping, physics challenging runs that have made her a dominant force in her sport.

Kim would have made the Olympic team with ease four years ago, only to have the calendar get in the way. She was 13 at the time, too young to make the trip to Russia. She entered the quadrennium between the games with the kind of expectations reserved for the Shaun Whites of the snowboarding world. She has exceeded every one.

Standing atop the hill at calm and brilliant Phoenix Snow Park — a stark contrast to the windy mess that turned the women’s slopestyle final into an ugly, borderline unsafe and crash-filled mess 24 hours earlier — Kim looked down at the crowd that included her parents, three sisters, three aunts, two cousins and her grandmother Moon Jung and proceeded to waste little time while turning the final into a global coming-out party.

MORE: Chloe Kim sure could go for some ice cream

She drilled her opening set, throwing in a 1080 — basically, three twists high above the pipe — before following it with a pair of flips (or “corks”). Kim celebrated at the end, pumping her fists as “USA!” ”USA!” chants rained down. When her score flashed, she clasped her hands atop her head and drank in the moment.

Kim’s teammates made serious bids to give the Americans only their fourth-ever Olympic podium sweep.

Gold, who dislocated her right shoulder during training for the Sochi Olympics and didn’t compete then barely made the 12-woman final, brushed off a fall during her first run and stomped an 85.75 on her third run. Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion still going strong at age 34, couldn’t quite catch Gold with an 83.50.

Jiayu came the closest to providing Kim with a serious threat. She drilled an 89.75 during her first set to take the lead, only to watch Kim top it during her first run moments later.

Jiayu then washed out on her last trip down the longest Olympic halfpipe since the sport made its debut in 1998, turning Kim’s last run into a victory lap. Rather than playing it safe, she went for it. Her No. 1 bib soaring into the South Korean sky, she put on a display that left the rest of the field and the thousands packed near the finish roaring their approval.

Kim’s score of 98.75 flirted with perfection. Fitting in a way because Kim is as close to it as anyone in her sport.

VIDEO: More from snowboarding in PyeongChang

 

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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TOUR DE FRANCE: StandingsTV Schedule | Riders to Watch

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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