Anna Gasser

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U.S. snowboarders shut out of X Games Aspen halfpipe medals for first time

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The first two Winter X Games events came and went without an American medalist, a historic opening to the 24th annual event in Aspen, Colo., on Thursday.

Australian Scotty James won the men’s halfpipe for a third time, extending his winning streak to 10 contests since the start of the 2018-19 season.

James, the Olympic bronze medalist, landed a switch backside double 1260, cab 1080, frontside 900 grabbing nose and a double backside 1260 (video here). He was followed by Yuto Totsuka of Japan and Jan Scherrer of Switzerland. Scores were not posted on the broadcast. Rather, a new, 30-minute jam session format had judges ranking riders fluidly.

Though the U.S. had five in the eight-man final, none made the halfpipe podium for the first time at an Aspen X Games. The event has been held there since 2002.

Records before that are hard to find, but it’s possible it’s the first time in X Games history (since 1997) anywhere in the United States that an American man did not make a halfpipe podium.

Shaun White, an eight-time X Games halfpipe champion, last won in 2013 and announced after PyeongChang that he was taking a break from snowboarding.

White announced a bid last summer to make the first Olympic skateboarding team, but it’s unknown if he’s still pursuing that after finishing 13th at the world championships in September, trailing the Americans favored to make the team. More of his social media posts in recent weeks have been snowboarding related.

Later Thursday, Japanese swept the women’s big air podium: Miyabi Onitsuka, Kokomo Murase and Reira Iwabuchi. Olympic champions Jamie Anderson of the U.S. and Anna Gasser of Austria finished seventh and eighth in the eight-woman field, each falling on most of their runs.

Gasser, who in November 2018 became the first woman to land a triple cork, tried four triple underflips and fell each time.

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Watch Anna Gasser become first woman to land triple cork

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Anna Gasser became the first female snowboarder to land a triple cork in an Instagram video posted Tuesday, according to the International Ski Federation.

“It’s a trick with consequences, and you really have to put everything on the line if you want to succeed,” Gasser said, according to Red Bull, adding that she did it on her first attempt of the day. “You can easily overrotate on the third flip which makes landing safely impossible. Today it just felt right, and I am happy I ticked that one off my list – it doesn’t feel like such a big thing, but I guess it’s another milestone in women’s snowboarding!”

It’s not surprise that it’s the Austrian who broke the barrier. Gasser won big air’s Olympic debut in PyeongChang, off the world’s tallest ramp (49 meters), and has a history of performing first-ever tricks.

In 2013, she became the first woman to land a cab double cork 900. In 2017, she won the world title with the first backside double 1080 done in a female contest.

Gasser’s feat came just four years after Brit Katie Ormerod became the first woman to land a double in practice.

The triple cork was first linked to the Olympics going into Sochi 2014, when it was considered a must-have to contend for gold in men’s slopestyle’s debut.

Shockingly, American Sage Kotsenburg won with a stylish run that didn’t include a triple cork, while silver and bronze medalists Staale Sandbech and Mark McMorris each threw the triple.

A brief history of triple-cork breakthroughs:

2010: Norway’s Torstein Horgmo becomes the first man to land a triple cork in big air training.
2012: Canadian Mark McMorris lands the first triple cork in competition in a big air event.
2015: China’s Zhang Yiwei becomes the first man to land a triple cork in a halfpipe (in practice; it hasn’t been done in competition).

And now Gasser, who has become one of her nation’s biggest sports stars. She earned Austria’s Female Athlete of the Year a second straight time this year, more than doubling the points of the runner-up. She is the only male or female snowboarder to earn the annual honor in a country known for its Alpine skiers.

Gasser has won every major title in big air – Olympics, worlds, X Games Aspen — but lacks a slopestyle victory among those events. She was a gymnast until age 14. At 17, she decided she wanted to become a pro snowboarder. Five years later, she competed in slopestyle’s Olympic debut in Sochi.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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VIDEO: Chloe Kim lands never-been-done 1260 in halfpipe

Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Simone Biles win ESPYs

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Michael PhelpsUsain Bolt and Simone Biles earned ESPY awards on Wednesday for their Rio Olympic triumphs.

Phelps earned best record-breaking performance for extending his records for most Olympic medals (28) and gold medals (23).

“Today is my wife’s birthday, and we met here 10 years ago,” said Phelps, who was also named the best male U.S. Olympic athlete. “It’s the most amazing thing in the world.”

Bolt won best international athlete for a third time. He also did so in 2013 and 2017, one year after sweeping the Olympic 100m and 200m as he did in Rio.

Biles took best female U.S. Olympic athlete and best female athlete over nominees including Katie Ledecky.

“Ever since Rio, it has been an amazing year, and the best part of all has been meeting all of the young people who look up to all the athletes in this room,” Biles said in her acceptance speech. “It is an incredible honor and responsibility of being a role model.”

Snowboarding stars Mark McMorris and Anna Gasser won best action sports athlete awards.

A full list of winners is here.

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