X Games: Scotty James beats Ayumu Hirano’s triple cork for halfpipe title

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ASPEN, Colo. — Ayumu Hirano landed the triple cork. Scotty James rode away with the win.

The calculus on the halfpipe remained hazy as ever Friday night when James notched his fourth career victory at the Winter X Games even though he didn’t attempt snowboarding’s most-difficult trick.

The question heading into the Olympics is whether it’s even worth it.

Less than five weeks after becoming the first to do it in competition, Hirano again landed a triple-flipping jump on his first trick. But, as was the case the first time, Hirano could not land the next jump. Riders usually need to land at least five to complete a run, and nobody has yet made a triple cork part of a full run in competition.

It left Hirano, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, with a silver medal in Aspen, as well. And James, who took bronze in PyeongChang four years ago, earned another gold.

“The triple is so difficult,” Hirano said through a translator. “And then, it’s also tough to link the next trick.”

So far, James’ best has featured the switchback double cork 1260 — a daunting, near-blind trick that involves two head-over-heels flips after riding backward up the wall, then spinning toward the top of the pipe.

He executed it on his first three runs, and the judges placed him ahead of Hirano after the second run. (No scores are given at the X Games, and judges simply rank the riders based on the overall impression of their runs.) Hirano’s younger brother, Kaishu, finished third.

“Switch backside still has a lot of clout, which you still don’t see that much of,” James said. “And I think it played a key part for me tonight against Ayumu.”

After Hirano fell on his final run, James, who was last on the start list, simply went for straight airs on a victory lap. This was James’ first contest in America this season, and he has been playing it coy about the triple cork.

“I’ll leave it as a mystery,” he said.

The next chance to find out what, exactly, he’s been working on in a secret setting in Europe will come Feb. 11 in the halfpipe finals in the mountains outside Beijing.

Also in the mix there, but absent from Aspen, will be three-time Olympic champion Shaun White and last year’s Winter X champion, Yuto Totsuka. Totsuka crashed hard at the last Olympics but has been dominating this sport through most of the last 24 months.

Earlier, Jamie Anderson tied Mark McMorris‘ record with her 20th career X Games medal across all sites, a snowboard slopestyle silver behind New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott. (Anderson has more X Games Aspen medals than McMorris, though.)

Sadowski-Synnott, who has traded X Games titles with Anderson in this Olympic cycle, landed back-to-back double cork 1080s on Friday, according to the broadcast.

France’s Tess Ledeux won a women’s ski big air event that lacked fellow Olympic medal contenders Eileen Gu of China and Kelly Sildaru of Estonia. Ledeux became the first woman to land a double cork 1620 in competition, according to organizers. Ski big air makes its Olympic debut in Beijing.

Then Sildaru won the ski halfpipe for her 10th X Games medal before turning 20, landing back-to-back 900s. Americans Brita Sigourney and Hanna Faulhaber earned silver and bronze. The absent Gu remains the Olympic favorite.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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