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Shaun White’s old coach heads China snowboarding toward Beijing Olympics

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Bud Keene, who coached Shaun White at three Olympics, now leads Chinese snowboarders en route to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“I signed a contract with China to win a medal in 2022. So, that’s the goal,” Keene said Thursday before a World Cup big air event inside the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, according to Xinhua News Agency.

While Keene helped White to two of his three Olympic halfpipe golds, the Vermont native is in charge of big air and slopestyle teams for China.

The Chinese are best known for their halfpipe riders, including Liu Jiayu, who took silver behind American Chloe Kim in PyeongChang for China’s first Olympic snowboarding medal. Five other Chinese finished in the top 10 in men’s and women’s halfpipe since 2010, but China has yet to enter a rider in an Olympic slopestyle or big air contest.

“We have a mountain to climb,” Keene said, according to Xinhua. “There’s no question about that. But we’re gonna climb it one step once a time.”

Keene and White both said they parted amicably after White’s disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Keene said in 2016 that they accomplished all they could together, and the coach wanted to invest more time in grass-roots snowboarding and instructing. He guided New Zealand freeskiers and snowboarders in PyeongChang, where that nation earned its second and third Winter Olympic medals (in ski halfpipe and snowboard big air).

China, which has rivaled the U.S. in Summer Olympic medals, earned between eight and 11 medals at the last six Winter Olympics, challenging some traditional European powers. More than half of its Winter Games medals came in short track speed skating, including 10 of its 13 golds.

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MORE: Shaun White takes his longest break from snowboarding

Wu Dajing, world’s fastest short track speed skater, lowers his world record

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Wu Dajing was China’s lone gold medalist in PyeongChang, and the short track speed skater is only getting faster as the Beijing Winter Olympic cycle begins.

Wu lowered his world record in the 500m, the equivalent of track and field’s 100m, at a World Cup in Kearns, Utah, on Sunday. He clocked 39.505 seconds at the 2002 Olympic long-track venue, beating the 39.584 he set in the PyeongChang final.

“The ice here is very fast,” the 24-year-old Wu said, according to the International Skating Union. “A year’s training has gone into this world record.”

Wu merits comparisons to Usain Bolt. Not only for dominating his sport’s sprint, but also for his unusual height (5 feet, 11 inches, tall for a short tracker) and the likelihood that he will be a star at an Olympics in China. With his PyeongChang title, Wu also took 500m gold or silver at all four world championships in the last Olympic cycle.

In 2022, Beijing will become the first city to host both editions of the Olympics, 14 years after it held an iconic Summer Games with Bolt’s breakout.

Wu’s time on Sunday is equal to averaging 28.31 miles per hour, nearly five mph faster than Bolt’s average for his 100m world record of 9.58 seconds from 2009.

NBC Olympics analyst Apolo Ohno, an eight-time Olympic short track medalist, raved over Wu in PyeongChang, noting not only his unchallenged speed but also meticulous strategy. Wu became the first man to lead an Olympic 500m final from start to finish since Ohno at Torino 2006.

“It was a symphony of short track 500m specialty,” Ohno said of Wu’s 500m gold in February.

Only American J.R. Celski had broken 40 seconds in the 500m before Wu did it twice in one night in PyeongChang. In two World Cup stops this season, Wu broke 40 seconds in eight of 12 rounds of 500m events.

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China steals men’s gymnastics world title after Russian drama; U.S. 4th

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Russia hoped for its first men’s world team title since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Instead, China is back atop the sport after a three-year hiatus, via the smallest margin of victory in modern gymnastics history.

Russian Nikita Nagornyy‘s error on high bar on Monday’s last routine, muscling out of a handstand, handed the Chinese gold by .049 in the closest Olympic or world men’s or women’s team final since the perfect-10 scoring system was replaced in 2006.

“Almost everyone cried,” Russian Olympian Nikolai Kuksenkov said, according to R-Sport.

Nagornyy said he thought upon dismounting that it was enough for gold. Russia would have prevailed if he repeated his score from last week’s qualifying in Doha.

The 21-year-old Olympian has a tattoo on his ribs that says “salvame y guardame,” which roughly translates to “save and protect me” in Spanish and is a common Russian Orthodox phrase.

China won despite falls from world all-around champion Xiao Ruoteng on its first and last routines. Japan, the reigning Olympic and world champion, took bronze, 1.75 points ahead of the U.S.

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China captured 10 of 11 world team titles from 1994 through 2014 before Japan’s resurgence. China dropped to bronze in Rio but now looks more determined to spoil one of the most important events for the host country at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Russia was in position for a breakthrough title, leading by 1.919 after four rotations. Then Artur Dalaloyan fell off the parallel bars. China busted through the opening, outscoring the Russians by 2.867 on the apparatus.

Japan led at the halfway point but was also done in on bars. Two-time Olympian Yusuke Tanaka came off on the fourth rotation, dropping the Japanese to third place. Eight-time Olympic and world all-around champion Kohei Uchimura is limited by an ankle injury, sitting out floor exercise and vault.

The U.S.’ fourth-place finish was the best it could have hoped for without significant help from China, Japan and Russia. The Americans were fifth at the Rio Olympics and at the last worlds with a team event in 2015. They missed the podium at three straight global championships for the first time since 1997, 1999 and 2000.

“The expectations for us weren’t very high,” Two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “Going into it, people didn’t see us on the podium, but I think we showed that we’re a lot closer to being on that podium than people expected us to be. The biggest takeaway for us is get our starts [routine difficulty] up just a little bit more within this group, get a couple of guys healthy that are hurt right now.”

Mikulak, who last week qualified for five of the seven individual finals (most by an American since 1979), fell on the opening rotation on pommel horse, long the U.S.’ nemesis apparatus in team finals. He rallied for the day’s best high bar score — 14.5.

Mikulak qualified third into Wednesday’s all-around final, where the two-time Olympian can earn his first individual Olympic or world medal.

Worlds continue with the women’s team final Tuesday, live at 9 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. The U.S., led by Simone Biles, is an overwhelming favorite to win a sixth straight Olympic or world title.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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