Gus Kenworthy switches from U.S. to Great Britain to honor his mom

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Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy will compete for Great Britain for what he says is his last Olympic cycle culminating with the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

Kenworthy, a 2014 Olympic ski slopestyle silver medalist, finalized his switch from the U.S. to his birth nation, announcing the move in Great Britain on Tuesday. The process has been in the works for months and was approved by U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

His reasoning: first to honor his mom, who is British, and to take “a path of less resistance” to qualifying for the Olympics.

“I feel like these are going to be my last Olympic Games for sure. I just wanted to do it for my mom,” he said. “She’s held up the American flag for me for two Games now, and I would love to be able to hold up the British flag for her for one.

“This gives me an advantage in terms of qualifying and having less to worry about, less people I’m up against, just being able to focus on the tricks that I want to be working on, the runs that I want to do, put me in the best position to hopefully get another medal and not have to kill my body trying to qualify in multiple disciplines right before the Games against the U.S. guys.”

Kenworthy, part of a U.S. slopestyle medals sweep in Sochi, is a dual citizen, born in Chelmsford, about 30 miles northeast of London. He moved to the U.S. at age 2 but, as he grew up, made yearly trips across the Atlantic to see his mom’s extended family.

For his last Olympics, Kenworthy hopes to qualify in three events — ski slopestyle, halfpipe and the new Olympic event of big air. In past Olympic cycles, qualifying for the U.S. teams in slope and pipe meant competing at five contests per discipline in the two months before the Winter Games.

Kenworthy noted that in 2014, he was passed over for the fourth and final Olympic spot in halfpipe for the injured Torin Yater-Wallace (chosen by committee) despite finishing fourth in qualifying. In 2018, he was sixth in qualifying for halfpipe, crashing hard at the last selection event.

Kenworthy will put more focus on halfpipe as he returns to competition in full this winter, highlighted by a Winter X Games Aspen appearance in late January.

He has competed just once since the PyeongChang Olympics. He was 12th in the 12-man final in South Korea, skiing with a broken thumb and after having six vials of blood drained from his hip.

“I thought maybe I was going to be done after this last Olympics,” said Kenworthy, who come 2022 will be 30, two years older than any previous Olympic male slopestyle skier. “Was predicted to get a medal and was favored for a medal and thought that I was going to get a medal, and it just didn’t work out for me. I think I got in my own head and kind of had a lot of the pressure internalized and expectations from people. I was also battling injuries, this huge hematoma in my hip, and just didn’t ski the way I wanted to ski in the final, and it made it really hard to walk away — not even like not getting a medal. Had I left it all out there and felt like I had done my best, I think I could have walked away with my head held high. I did do my best, but it was not my best performance.”

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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