After ER trip, Chloe Kim wins 5th X Games Aspen snowboard halfpipe title

Chloe Kim
Getty Images

A few days after an ER visit, Chloe Kim returned from a one-year X Games absence to win her fifth snowboard halfpipe title in Aspen, one shy of Kelly Clark‘s female record in the event.

Kim, who in 2018 became the youngest Olympic halfpipe champion at 17, reclaimed her crown at X Games, the biggest annual snowboard contest, after missing last year’s event while taking freshman classes at Princeton.

“I really was not expecting to podium,” Kim, who went 22 months between contests, said on ESPN. “Really just wanted to go into this season with a new mindset, have fun and try new runs.”

In the run that put her in first place, Kim landed a frontside 1080, less than 10 minutes after falling on her first big trick attempt.

“Low key popped some ribs out on the first slam,” was posted on Kim’s Instagram between runs. “They do everything but stay in place.”

She later revealed that she visited an emergency room a few days earlier with “a really crazy allergic reaction” with her throat closed.

Kim is the only woman to ever land back-to-back 1080s, but just like her comeback contest last week, she did not attempt multiple 1080s in a single run.

The X Games format changed since Kim’s last appearance in 2019. Instead of each run being scored, eight riders had four runs each in a 30-minute jam session and were ranked based on overall impression.

Maddie Mastro, who beat Kim at the March 2019 Burton U.S. Open (where Kim broke an ankle), finished second on Saturday.

Kim owns six X Games halfpipe titles, but one came in a sister competition in Oslo. Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion who retired after the 2018 Olympics, owns seven X Games halfpipe titles, but one came in a sister competition in Tignes, France.

Kim said she has two more contests planned in the near future.

Earlier Saturday, 17-year-old Eileen Gu won her second title in as many days, this time in ski slopestyle.

Gu, born in San Francisco to an American father and Chinese mother, became the first athlete from China to win an X Games title on Friday, when she took the ski halfpipe. She also earned bronze in her X Games debut in Friday’s ski big air, which makes its Olympic debut next year in Beijing, where Gu will be one of the host nation’s biggest stars.

“The best two days of my life,” Gu, who beat all three of the 2018 Olympic slopestyle medalists, said on ABC. “I thought I had no words last night, but I have even fewer today.”

Swiss Andri Ragettli, known for his floor-is-lava unorthodox training videos, earned the biggest title of his career by winning men’s ski big air. Alex Hall took bronze, becoming the first U.S. medalist in the event since 2016.

The X Games conclude Sunday, highlighted by Shaun White in snowboard halfpipe.

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U.S. women’s rugby team qualifies for 2024 Paris Olympics as medal contender

Cheta Emba

The U.S. women’s rugby team qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics by clinching a top-four finish in this season’s World Series.

Since rugby was re-added to the Olympics in 2016, the U.S. men’s and women’s teams finished fifth, sixth, sixth and ninth at the Games.

The U.S. women are having their best season since 2018-19, finishing second or third in all five World Series stops so far and ranking behind only New Zealand and Australia, the winners of the first two Olympic women’s rugby sevens tournaments.

The U.S. also finished fourth at last September’s World Cup.

Three months after the Tokyo Games, Emilie Bydwell was announced as the new U.S. head coach, succeeding Olympic coach Chris Brown.

Soon after, Tokyo Olympic co-captain Abby Gustaitis was cut from the team.

Jaz Gray, who led the team in scoring last season and at the World Cup, missed the last three World Series stops after an injury.

The U.S. men are ranked ninth in this season’s World Series and will likely need to win either a North American Olympic qualifier this summer or a last-chance global qualifier in June 2024 to make it to Paris.

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Oscar Pistorius denied parole, hasn’t served enough time

Oscar Pistorius
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Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius was denied parole Friday and will have to stay in prison for at least another year and four months after it was decided that he had not served the “minimum detention period” required to be released following his murder conviction for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp 10 years ago.

The parole board ruled that Pistorius would only be able to apply again in August 2024, South Africa’s Department of Corrections said in a short, two-paragraph statement. It was released soon after a parole hearing at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre prison where Pistorius is being held.

The board cited a new clarification on Pistorius’ sentence that was issued by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal just three days before the hearing, according to the statement. Still, legal experts criticized authorities’ decision to go ahead with the hearing when Pistorius was not eligible.

Reeva Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, are “relieved” with the decision to keep Pistorius in prison but are not celebrating it, their lawyer told The Associated Press.

“They can’t celebrate because there are no winners in this situation. They lost a daughter and South Africa lost a hero,” lawyer Tania Koen said, referring to the dramatic fall from grace of Pistorius, once a world-famous and highly-admired athlete.

The decision and reasoning to deny parole was a surprise but there has been legal wrangling over when Pistorius should be eligible for parole because of the series of appeals in his case. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter, in 2014 but the case went through a number of appeals before Pistorius was finally sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017.

Serious offenders must serve at least half their sentence to be eligible for parole in South Africa. Pistorius’ lawyers had previously gone to court to argue that he was eligible because he had served the required portion if they also counted periods served in jail from late 2014 following his culpable homicide conviction.

The lawyer handling Pistorius’ parole application did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

June Steenkamp attended Pistorius’ hearing inside the prison complex to oppose his parole. The parents have said they still do not believe Pistorius’ account of their daughter’s killing and wanted him to stay in jail.

Pistorius, who is now 36, has always claimed he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law student, in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 after mistaking her for a dangerous intruder in his home. He shot four times with his licensed 9 mm pistol through a closed toilet cubicle door in his bathroom, where Steenkamp was, hitting her multiple times. Pistorius claimed he didn’t realize his girlfriend had got out of bed and gone to the bathroom.

The Steenkamps say they still think he is lying and killed her intentionally after a late-night argument.

Lawyer Koen had struck a more critical tone when addressing reporters outside the prison before the hearing, saying the Steenkamps believed Pistorius could not be considered to be rehabilitated “unless he comes clean” over the killing.

“He’s the killer of their daughter. For them, it’s a life sentence,” Koen said before the hearing.

June Steenkamp had sat grim-faced in the back seat of a car nearby while Koen spoke to reporters outside the prison gates ahead of the hearing. June Steenkamp and Koen were then driven into the prison in a Department of Corrections vehicle. June Steenkamp made her submission to the parole board in a separate room to Pistorius and did not come face-to-face with her daughter’s killer, Koen said.

Barry Steenkamp did not travel for the hearing because of poor health but a family friend read out a statement to the parole board on his behalf, the parents’ lawyer said.

Pistorius was once hailed as an inspirational figure for overcoming the adversity of his disability, before his murder trial and sensational downfall captivated the world.

Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was a baby because of a congenital condition and he walks with prosthetics. He went on to become a double-amputee runner and multiple Paralympic champion who made history by competing against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, running on specially designed carbon-fiber blades.

Pistorius’ conviction eventually led to him being sent to the Kgosi Mampuru II maximum security prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious. He was moved to the Atteridgeville prison in 2016 because that facility is better suited to disabled prisoners.

There have only been glimpses of his life in prison, with reports claiming he had at one point grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking and was unrecognizable from the elite athlete he once was.

He has spent much of his time working in an area of the prison grounds where vegetables are grown, sometimes driving a tractor, and has reportedly been running bible classes for other inmates.

Pistorius’ father, Henke Pistorius, told the Pretoria News newspaper before the hearing that his family hoped he would be home soon.

“Deep down, we believe he will be home soon,” Henke Pistorius said, “but until the parole board has spoken the word, I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

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