New Zealand earns 2 golds to open Aspen snowboard, freestyle skiing worlds


New Zealand won two of the first four events, while the U.S. earned one silver and one bronze medal at the world freestyle skiing and snowboarding championships in Aspen, Colorado, on Friday.

New Zealand won women’s snowboard slopestyle (Zoi Sadowski-Synnott) and men’s ski halfpipe (Nico Porteous). In 2018, Sadowski-Synnott and Porteous earned New Zealand’s second and third medals in Winter Olympic history (both bronze).

The U.S. bagged medals Friday from Jamie Anderson (silver, snowboard slopestyle) and Birk Irving (bronze, ski halfpipe).

China’s Eileen Gu won the women’s ski halfpipe. Norwegian Marcus Kleveland won the men’s snowboard slopestyle.

Worlds continue Saturday with finals in ski slopestyle and snowboard halfpipe, featuring Olympic champion Chloe Kim. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

ON HER TURF: Eileen Gu wants to inspire young girls to pursue freeskiing

On Friday, Sadowski-Synnott overtook Anderson, the greatest slopestyle rider in history, in the final run of the eight-rider, three-run competition.

Sadowski-Synnott landed a switch backside 900, frontside 720 and backside double 1080 for 85.95 points, jumping from last to first to repeat as world champion. In 2019, Sadowski-Synnott became the first skier or snowboarder from New Zealand to win a world title.

She denied Anderson, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time X Games Aspen champion, from adding the lone major snowboarding title missing from her resume.

Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi took bronze, her first world slopestyle medal since taking gold in its debut in 2011.

In men’s slopestyle, Kleveland’s two runs produced the two highest scores — 86.86 and 90.66, including a switch backside 1260 and back-to-back 1620s in the latter.

Canadian Sebastien Toutant took silver, followed by Finland’s Rene Rinnekangas, who edged U.S. Olympic champion Red Gerard for bronze by .23.

In ski halfpipe, Porteous prevailed with a 94.50-point first run, landing back-to-back 1620s a month after breaking his left foot skateboarding. His first day back in a halfpipe was this week, at the same site as his title at X Games in January.

Canadian Simon d’Artois held on for silver, 3.25 points back, after Irving didn’t take a third run after falling in his second run.

David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion, placed 10th in the 10-man final.

Gu, a 17-year-old born in San Francisco to an American father and Chinese mother, prevailed in her world championships debut. In January, Gu swept ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle in her X Games debut to become an Olympic favorite in her home nation next year.

Gu landed back-to-back cork 900s in her winning, 93-point run, competing without poles for the first time. She suffered a fracture and tear in her right hand weeks earlier and will undergo surgery after worlds, according to her Instagram.

Canadian Rachael Karker took silver with a 91.75-point third run, overtaking Brit Zoe Atkin.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!