Gus Kenworthy combats concussion, COVID before final events of freestyle skiing career

Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2020 - Day 4
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Gus Kenworthy‘s run-up to his third and final Olympics has been challenging, and that’s an understatement.

Kenworthy, who in 2019 announced a switch from the U.S. to Great Britain, hopes to complete a competition for the first time in a year at this week’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

Kenworthy, 30, said Tuesday that his next two events will be the last two of his career — the X Games, where he hopes to fulfill a dream of winning a gold medal, and the Beijing Olympics. The British federation is expected to name its Olympic roster on Friday.

Kenworthy was part of a U.S. podium sweep in the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle competition in 2014, taking silver between Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper.

After coming out in 2015, he was one of the most followed athletes going into the PyeongChang Games, where he placed 12th in the 12-man ski slopestyle final coming off injuries. He broke his right thumb three days before the competition and had six vials of blood drained from a hip hematoma two days before it.

In announcing his switch to Great Britain, his birth nation, Kenworthy said he was going to focus on halfpipe going toward Beijing.

In late October, Kenworthy suffered what he called a pretty bad concussion at a training camp in Switzerland, the latest in a string of head injuries in recent years.

Two weeks later, he started feeling very ill and tested positive for the coronavirus (while fully vaccinated). He felt “completely wiped out” while quarantined in a hotel for 10 days before flying home.

He went to compete for the first time this season on Dec. 8, but said he got lost in the air doing his first trick in the halfpipe — “the skiing equivalent to the ‘twisties,'” he posted — and withdrew. Kenworthy hasn’t competed since.

On Dec. 12, Kenworthy posted that he was still experiencing head issues — becoming light-headed, disoriented and nauseous when he got his heart rate up. After consulting with specialists, he believed they were residual effects of the virus rather than the concussion.

“There was a moment where I was nervous that, even having my Olympic spot, I might not be able to do it, because at that moment, I really couldn’t ski,” Kenworthy said.

But medication has helped, and he trained in Copper Mountain, Colorado, over the last two weeks.

“I have done all of the tricks that I need to do in my run now,” said Kenworthy, who owns seven medals among the Olympics, world championships and X Games, but no gold. “I haven’t put it all together, but I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling more confident. I don’t know if I feel 100 percent, but I feel like 90 percent, and if there’s ever a time to give it my all, it’s right now because X Games is really the near-and-dear event to my heart.”

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Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong

Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship

The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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