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Gus Kenworthy switches from U.S. to Great Britain to honor his mom

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Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy will compete for Great Britain for what he says is his last Olympic cycle culminating with the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

Kenworthy, a 2014 Olympic ski slopestyle silver medalist, finalized his switch from the U.S. to his birth nation, announcing the move in Great Britain on Tuesday. The process has been in the works for months and was approved by U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

His reasoning: first to honor his mom, who is British, and to take “a path of less resistance” to qualifying for the Olympics.

“I feel like these are going to be my last Olympic Games for sure. I just wanted to do it for my mom,” he said. “She’s held up the American flag for me for two Games now, and I would love to be able to hold up the British flag for her for one.

“This gives me an advantage in terms of qualifying and having less to worry about, less people I’m up against, just being able to focus on the tricks that I want to be working on, the runs that I want to do, put me in the best position to hopefully get another medal and not have to kill my body trying to qualify in multiple disciplines right before the Games against the U.S. guys.”

Kenworthy, part of a U.S. slopestyle medals sweep in Sochi, is a dual citizen, born in Chelmsford, about 30 miles northeast of London. He moved to the U.S. at age 2 but, as he grew up, made yearly trips across the Atlantic to see his mom’s extended family.

For his last Olympics, Kenworthy hopes to qualify in three events — ski slopestyle, halfpipe and the new Olympic event of big air. In past Olympic cycles, qualifying for the U.S. teams in slope and pipe meant competing at five contests per discipline in the two months before the Winter Games.

Kenworthy noted that in 2014, he was passed over for the fourth and final Olympic spot in halfpipe for the injured Torin Yater-Wallace (chosen by committee) despite finishing fourth in qualifying. In 2018, he was sixth in qualifying for halfpipe, crashing hard at the last selection event.

Kenworthy will put more focus on halfpipe as he returns to competition in full this winter, highlighted by a Winter X Games Aspen appearance in late January.

He has competed just once since the PyeongChang Olympics. He was 12th in the 12-man final in South Korea, skiing with a broken thumb and after having six vials of blood drained from his hip.

“I thought maybe I was going to be done after this last Olympics,” said Kenworthy, who come 2022 will be 30, two years older than any previous Olympic male slopestyle skier. “Was predicted to get a medal and was favored for a medal and thought that I was going to get a medal, and it just didn’t work out for me. I think I got in my own head and kind of had a lot of the pressure internalized and expectations from people. I was also battling injuries, this huge hematoma in my hip, and just didn’t ski the way I wanted to ski in the final, and it made it really hard to walk away — not even like not getting a medal. Had I left it all out there and felt like I had done my best, I think I could have walked away with my head held high. I did do my best, but it was not my best performance.”

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics add seven new events

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Seven new events were added to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic program:

Women’s monobobsled
Short track mixed team relay
Ski jumping mixed team event
Freestyle skiing big air (men and women)
Aerials mixed team event
Snowboard cross mixed team event

The additions bring the Winter Olympic total number of events to 109, an all-time high and nearly double the amount of events at the 1992 Winter Games.

The number of women’s hockey teams will increase from eight to 10 in 2022, but the overall number of athletes is expected to be fewer than the 2,933 in PyeongChang. The International Olympic Committee said athlete quotas will decrease in some sports, but no events have been contracted. Alpine skiing’s super combined events are still under review as to whether they will remain in the Olympic program.

The IOC said the Winter Olympics will have its highest-ever gender balance in 2022, rising from 41 percent female athletes to more than 45 percent.

The IOC had a “long discussion” about adding a women’s event in Nordic combined, the only sport without a women’s event in the Winter Games, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

“Nordic combined, and women’s in particular, still need to be developed further in terms of universality [the number of countries with Olympic-level athletes], in terms of the level of the athletes,” McConnell said.

The IOC also weighed whether to add a four-woman bobsled event rather than women’s monobobsled. The Games have two-man and two-woman events and a four-man event.

McConnell said the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation was “very supportive” of monobob, in part because it is already on the Youth Olympic program.

“Woman’s four-man bob costs three or four times of monobob,” McConnell said. “We felt there would be more universality in the women’s monobob. We really didn’t see more than a handful of countries really developing women’s four-man programs because of the costs involved.”

Beijing will mark the third straight Winter Olympics to add mixed-gender events. In 2014, mixed relays in biathlon and luge debuted, as well as the figure skating team event. In PyeongChang, a mixed Alpine skiing team event and mixed doubles curling debuted.

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Vincent Gagnier, Lisa Zimmermann win ski Big Air at Fenway Park

Vincent Gagnier
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Canadian Vincent Gagnier and German Lisa Zimmermann captured ski Big Air at Fenway Park titles on Friday night.

Gagnier, the 2015 Winter X Games ski big air champion, posted the two best scores of the night, earning the title with a combined 185 points. Scores were tallied combining a skier’s two best runs over three overall.

Gagnier’s highest-scoring trick included four ski grabs while spinning 1260 degrees.

Watch Gagnier’s three runs here. Full men’s results are here.

Zimmermann, the 2015 World champion in ski slopestyle, edged Swede Emma Dahlstrom by two tenths of a point. Zimmermann came up clutch in her final run, scoring a 90.60 on a switch 720-degree jump, going off the ramp backwards.

Watch Zimmermann’s three runs here. Full women’s results are here.

“I love the crowd, it’s like super motivating, and the music is super awesome,” Zimmermann said on NBCSN. “I was thinking all day just to go out and party.”

Athletes were competing on a 140-foot ramp dwarfing the nearby Green Monster, about four times taller than the histroic wall. Ski big air is not part of the Olympic program.

None of the three U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle medalists competed in the final Friday night.

Olympic champion Joss Christensen pulled out before qualification with a sore knee. Silver medalist Gus Kenworthy and bronze medalist Nick Goepper bowed out in qualifying, with Kenworthy not taking all of his runs due to a heel bruise.

U.S. Olympic women’s ski slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan placed sixth in the final.

NBC will air Big Air at Fenway coverage on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

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