Canada sweeps snowboard big air titles to close world championships

Mark McMorris
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Mark McMorris is a seven-time X Games Aspen snowboard champion with a record 20 Winter X Games medals overall, but he won his first world championship on Tuesday.

McMorris was part of a Canadian sweep of the men’s and women’s big air titles on the final day of the world freestyle skiing and snowboarding championships in Aspen, Colorado. Laurie Blouin took the women’s gold.

In big air, an athlete’s top two scores, throwing different tricks, among three runs are added together for a final score.

McMorris, the two-time Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist, landed two different 1620s for 92.75 and 86.50 points, respectively. His outscored countryman Max Parrot, who came back from a cancer diagnosis to win the 2020 X Games big air, by one point. Norwegian Marcus Kleveland took bronze, four days after winning the world title in slopestyle.

Judd Henkes, the lone American in the final, took seventh.

Canadian Sebastien Toutant, who won big air’s Olympic debut in 2018, failed to qualify for the final

Last year, McMorris broke Shaun White’s record for most Winter X Games medals across all sites, including Europe. This past January, he missed X Games Aspen for the first time since his debut in 2011 at age 17, forced out due to a positive coronavirus test.

He returned to Aspen for the world championships, failing to make the slopestyle final but sticking around to compete in big air at worlds for the first time since 2013.

Blouin, the 2018 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist, landed two different double cork 1080s for 88 and 89.75 points, respectively. She edged slopestyle world champion Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand by one point.

Japanese Miyabi Onitsuka took bronze. Missing the podium: Austrian Olympic champion Anna Gasser (fourth) and American Jamie Anderson, who owns both Olympic slopestyle titles and finished seventh on Tuesday.

Big air marked the last day of world championships in skiing and snowboarding events across all disciplines. The remaining winter sports world championships are in figure skating (next week), curling (April and May) and ice hockey (May and June).

Top U.S. snowboarders and freeskiers will stay in Aspen for the U.S. Grand Prix, the first 2022 Olympic qualifying event, later this week. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier, ski big air produced two unheralded world champions.

Oliwer Magnusson became the first Swede to win a world freeskiing title, landing two different double cork 1800s for 94.25 and 91 points, respectively.

He edged 18-year-old Canadian Edouard Therriault by .25 of a point. Swiss Kim Gubser took bronze, .75 of a point ahead of American Mac Forehand. None of the men’s medalists made the podium at any previous X Games or world championships.

Swiss Andri Ragettli, the social media video sensation who won the X Games big air in January and slopestyle world title on Saturday, placed sixth.

Anastasia Tatalina and Lana Pruskova gave Russia a historic one-two in the women’s event. A Russian never before placed in the top five of a world championships freeski final. But Tatalina, 20, landed two different double cork 1260s for 93 and 91.5 points, respectively, to distance her countrywoman by 19 points.

Chinese Eileen Gu, who swept the halfpipe and slopestyle titles last week and at January’s X Games, took bronze, just as she did at X Games. No Americans made the final.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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