Iouri Podladtchikov ends competitive snowboarding career

Iouri Podladtchikov
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Iouri Podladtchikov, the only man other than Shaun White to win an Olympic halfpipe title in the last four Winter Games, said Sunday that he retired from competition, confirming a report from his native Switzerland.

Podladtchikov, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist known as I-Pod, had few contests since missing the PyeongChang Winter Games after suffering a traumatic brain injury and cerebral hemorrhages in a Winter X Games crash two weeks before the Olympics.

In December 2018, Podladtchikov suffered a concussion and broken nose in a crash at his comeback event in China.

Two months later, he ruptured an Achilles tendon while at the world championships in Park City, requiring surgery and ultimately becoming the biggest challenge of his career, according to Sunday’s report in Tages Anzeiger.

Yet Podladtchikov, 31, returned to compete one last time at the Laax Open, the biggest annual contest in Switzerland, last January, placing fifth. He didn’t want an injury to determine the end of his career, though he knew that Laax could have marked his farewell, he said, according to Tages Anzeiger.

His career highlight was undoubtedly the Sochi Olympics, where he overcame a slushy halfpipe to land his signature YOLO Flip, a cab double cork 1440, to spoil White’s Olympic three-peat bid. White, a friend, finished fourth.

“I can’t tell you how special this is,” Podladtchikov, who was born in Russia and competed as a Russian at his first Olympics in 2006, told NBC that night. “The people are yelling in Russian, and I’m yelling back in Russian.”

It marked Podladtchikov’s last major win. Earlier in his career, Podladtchikov won the 2013 World title and finished runner-up at the X Games in Aspen in 2010 and 2012.

Podladtchikov, who speaks four languages, was also known for an array of interests. He did photography, trained ballet and studied art history at the University of Zurich.

White took back the Olympic crown in 2018 in Podladtchikov’s absence and is expected to bid for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

MORE: Why did Shaun White cut his hair? Carrot Top

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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