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Kelly Clark to end season at Burton U.S. Open, then evaluate

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Kelly Clark said “there’s a chance” that Saturday’s Burton U.S. Open halfpipe final will be the last contest of her unmatched snowboarding career.

“But I think I’ve got a lot of time ahead of me just to kind of evaluate how I’m doing and what else I have left to accomplish,” the five-time U.S. Olympian said in a phone interview Thursday after qualifying for the six-rider final. “I think it’ll really come down to that. I don’t know much more at this time.”

What is left to accomplish? Clark owns three Olympic medals and finished fourth in two other Olympics, including in PyeongChang, when her practice time was curtailed due to injury.

She owns 14 X Games halfpipe medals, including seven golds, and seven U.S. Open wins among more than 70 contest victories, most by a rider of either gender.

“If it was about accomplishing things, I’ve had one of the most incredible snowboarding careers anyone could ever hope to have,” she continued. “I’ve probably won and lost every event in snowboarding, but it would come down to if I’m done progressing my riding. I think that’ll be a big determiner about when I decide to call it quits. If I’m done learning stuff. If I’m done being challenged. If I’m done progressing. That’ll be when I start to evaluate if it’s time to hang it up.”

The U.S. Open, where the 34-year-old Clark has competed for nearly two decades and attended since she was 10 or 11 years old, is the traditional season-ending event.

“I was a fan long before I was ever an athlete,” said Clark, who grew up nine miles from where the U.S. Open was formerly held in Stratton, Vt., and sought autographs from the riders she read about in magazines or saw on posters.

Clark, like many riders she’s talked to this week, had not strapped on a snowboard since the Feb. 13 Sochi final before arriving in Vail, Colo.

“The Olympics is such a journey. It’s not just one event. It ends up, inevitably, being four years,” she said. “So I was really looking forward to coming to the Open because I felt like it would just be good to get back on the board, get back in a contest and just get back to normal.”

Clark eeked into the final in the sixth and last spot, landing a pair of 720s in her best qualifying run. She plans to throw a 1080 in the three-run final, facing a field that includes Olympic champion Chloe Kim.

Clark beat Kim, who is half her age, at the fourth and final U.S. Olympic qualifier in January. A week later, Clark suffered a bruised tibia and a fracture on the top of that bone in an X Games crash. That was two weeks before her Olympic competition.

“It was quite a journey just trying to see what I would be able to do at the Olympics, what that would look like,” said Clark, who came back last season from left hamstring and hip labrum tears. “I have the best medical staff anyone could ever hope for, and we made a really good plan to get me through that event. Not only just to get me through the event, but to do it really well. I would have enjoyed more practice … but I can honestly say during the event it didn’t affect my performance.”

Clark said she’s still not fully healed, but the injury was not serious enough for surgery to ever be an option. She will compete Saturday, then head home, where her garden needs work, for a restorative offseason.

“My dog will be a lot happier,” she joked.

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MORE: Best snowboarding moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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