X Games: Mark McMorris breaks Shaun White record on quest for first Olympic gold

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Canadian Mark McMorris won a record-breaking sixth Winter X Games snowboard slopestyle title, moving one ahead of Shaun White‘s tally, but there is still one gaping hole in his resume: an Olympic gold medal.

“Of course it’s something that I really want to get, and it’s something I know I can get,” McMorris, who won his 21st career X Games medal, said before the event. “But it’s not going to make or break me.”

On Saturday, he landed a switch backside triple cork 1620 stalefish, frontside triple cork 1440 Weddle and a backside triple cork 1620 Indy on his fourth run in Aspen, Colorado. Athletes are ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

He beat a field that included the world’s top two ranked slopestyle riders — 2018 Olympic champion Red Gerard (fourth place Saturday) and Norwegian Marcus Kleveland (second place). Kleveland came back to win snowboard big air later Saturday with a backside quad cork 1800 Indy and a Cab 1800 Weddle.

At 28, McMorris is headed to his third Olympics. The greatest slopestyle rider in history took bronze in 2014 and in 2018, coming back from major injury obstacles.

Ahead of Sochi, he suffered a broken rib at X Games 12 days before slopestyle’s Olympic debut, earning him the nickname “McRib.”

Ten months before PyeongChang, he crashed into a tree while backcountry riding and suffered a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung.

After missing last year’s X Games due to COVID-19, McMorris was thankful simply to be in Aspen. Next up: Beijing.

Earlier, Jamie Anderson kept pace with McMorris with her 21st X Games medal across all sites, a silver in snowboard big air. Anderson also took silver in slopestyle on Friday behind the same gold medalist, New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who hit a frontside double cork 1080 melon and a backside 1260.

Anderson, the two-time Olympic slopestyle champion, goes into Beijing with medal chances in both events. But Sadowski-Synnott is ranked No. 1 in the world in slopestyle, Anderson’s better event, and looking to become her nation’s first Winter Olympic champion.

Japan’s Sena Tomita won a women’s snowboard halfpipe contest that lacked Olympic champion Chloe Kim, who is focusing on Beijing prep.

The event shaped up as a showdown between Spain’s Queralt Castellet and American Maddie Mastro, who has been working on the double cork 1080 — a trick with two off-axis flips that some believe gives her an outside chance to beat Kim in China.

But Mastro couldn’t land either of her double cork attempts Saturday night. She came in nursing an ankle injury from earlier this season. The falls shook her up, and when her last chance came around, she passed. She finished fifth.

Americans Alex Hall and Mac Forehand went one-two in ski big air, boosting their hopes of earning medals at the event’s Olympic debut in Beijing. Hall’s tricks included a 1980 and a 2160. Swiss Andri Ragettli, last year’s X Games champ known for his social media videos, was seventh.

France’s Tess Ledeux earned her second title in as many days, taking the women’s ski slopestyle to add to her big air crown. She landed a switch leftside 1080 Japan, switch rightside bio 900 safety and a left double 1260 Weddle grab.

Both fields lacked China’s Eileen Gu, who could sweep the three freeski golds at the Olympics, including ski halfpipe, too.

X Games finishes Sunday with men’s ski slopestyle and ski halfpipe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic was simply too good at the most crucial moments and claimed his 10th Australian Open championship and 22nd Grand Slam title overall by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in the final at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night.

The victory allows Djokovic to return to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

The 35-year-old from Serbia did not compete in the Australian Open a year ago after being deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Government restrictions have eased since, and he was able to get a visa this time despite still not having gotten the shots against the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Now Djokovic has run his winning streak at the hard-court tournament to 28 matches.

His 10th trophy in Australia adds to the record he already held. His 22 major championships — which include seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open and two from the French Open — are tied with Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in the history of tennis.

He was superior throughout against Tsitsipas, but especially so in the two tiebreakers.

Djokovic took a 4-1 lead in the first and after it was 4-all, pulled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple then climbed into the stands, pumped his fist and jumped with his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, and other members of the entourage, before collapsing, crying.

Djokovic returned to the court, sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and let some more tears flow.

Margaret Court, with 24, Serena Williams, with 23, and Steffi Graf, with 22, have the most championships among women.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, allowing him to break a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most. Jimmy Connors holds that mark, at 109.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece’s other one also ended in a loss to Djokovic, at the 2021 French Open.

A win for Tsitsipas would have allowed him to get to No. 1 for the first time, supplanting Carlos Alcaraz, who got there after winning the U.S. Open last September but sat out the Australian Open because of a leg injury.

Little doubt this is of no solace to Tsitsipas, but there is no shame in failing to defeat Djokovic in Melbourne. Challenging his dominion on those blue hard courts is every bit the monumental task that taking on Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros is.

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Chock/Bates, Knierim/Frazier futures unclear after clear-cut wins at figure skating nationals

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SAN JOSE, California – They have both begun the new Olympic cycle as the undisputed national leaders in their figure skating disciplines, cementing that status with U.S. titles Saturday – the fourth for ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the second for the pairs’ team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier.

At this point, their respective paths to the 2026 Winter Games seem free and clear of challengers.

The question for the dancers and the pair is how far down that road they intend to go.

“I don’t know what the next four years will hold,” Chock said. “But we’re committed to each other and our goals, and we’ll decide when the time comes.”

Chock, 30, and Bates, 33, engaged to be married in the summer of 2024, have been at this a long time. And their trophy case is packed to the gills, with the only gaps a world title and an individual Olympic medal.

They have competed together at the senior level in the U.S. Championships for 12 seasons, winning medals at the last 11. They have been to nine world championships, winning three medals, and three Olympics (four for Bates), winning a yet-to-be-awarded team medal last year in Beijing.

(The unresolved doping case involving Russian skater Kamila Valiyeva has delayed the awarding of the 2022 team event medals. Maybe it will become a wedding present for Chock and Bates. Or a fifth anniversary present…)

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Until this year, Chock and Bates had faced formidable rivals on the national scene – 2014 Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White; 2018 Olympic bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani; and 2022 Olympic bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, with whom Chock and Bates traded gold medals over the previous four seasons. All have retired from competition.

Saturday, they cruised to the gold medal by 22.29 points over Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, the largest ice dance victory margin at nationals since 2006. In a discipline where established hierarchy weighs heavily, Chock and Bates find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on a metaphorical easy street to the top step of the U.S. podium.

“We – at least I – felt nervous today,” Bates said. “We (still) felt compelled to skate well. The lack of maybe the Hubbell-Donohue back and forth did not mitigate the specialness today.”

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, have similar longevity at nationals, even if they did not team up until 2020, taking the U.S. title in their first season together.

Knierim skated at seven nationals with her husband, Chris, winning three titles, Frazier at seven with Haven Denney, winning once.

Knierim and Frazier had expected to retire after last season, when they missed nationals because Frazier contracted Covid but went on to place sixth at the Olympics and unexpectedly became the first U.S. team to win a pairs’ world title since 1979. Their experiences on the Stars on Ice Tour led them to reconsider.

“It made sense on our timeline to move on,” Knierim told me in September. “We had done everything we could in two years.

“Yet it felt like it could be sad or disappointing to end a really talented career together so soon. Being on tour had opened our eyes to how in synch and unified we were on the ice. So there was a little bit of curiosity, a feeling of ‘What else are we capable of?’”

Their personal circumstances have changed during the course of this season. Chris Knierim starts work Thursday as skating director of a rink in the Chicago suburbs, and the Knierims recently bought a house in that area.

Knierim and Frazier have been training at a rink in Irvine, California. Should they decide to continue as competitors after this season, it would almost certainly entail a move to Chicago for Frazier.

Knierim insisted her house purchase was not an indication of what her plans with Frazier are.

“Right now, we are staying the course, based in Irvine through the world championships (in late March),” Knierim said before winning her fifth U.S. title.

“We do have some changes ahead of us. But I’d hate to jump ahead and say yes or no to next season. We learned that last season.”

Frazier spoke Saturday of reflecting throughout this season about their personal journeys and their partnership, the kind of reflection that often accompanies doing something for the last time.

“We just are trying to soak it in as if it could be your last, but the future is unknown,” Frazier said.

Knierim and Frazier prevailed Saturday with the largest winning margin, 31.11 points, in the 18 years that the International Judging System has been used at nationals.

They saved several points due to her quick thinking.

After Frazier put his hand to the ice on the triple toe loop that was to open a triple-double-double-jump combination, Knierim saw that her partner was going to follow with only a single jump and followed suit. It led to the delightful oddity of side-by-side single toe loops.

Nicely executed ones, too.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at every Winter Olympics since 1980, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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