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Ester Ledecka must decide between ski, snowboard worlds

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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — Skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecka will not be able to follow up her dual sport gold-medal performances at the PyeongChang Olympics with a similar haul of world titles this season.

That’s because the schedule won’t allow it, and she’s not happy about it.

The parallel giant slalom at the world freestyle skiing and snowboard championships in Utah is Feb. 4 — the same day downhill training opens at Alpine skiing worlds in Are, Sweden, and a day before the super-G.

“I was a little bit hoping they would reschedule the snowboard race — put it a week earlier so I could do it both — but they didn’t want to so I have to choose,” Ledecka said Tuesday after placing 29th in a World Cup downhill.

In PyeongChang, Ledecka followed her super-G title by winning the parallel GS in snowboarding — becoming the first athlete to win two golds at one Winter Games using two different types of equipment.

The 23-year-old Czech is the reigning world champion in parallel GS.

Ledecka said she brought up the issue with the International Ski Federation, which governs both sports.

“On one side I see their point. For one athlete why should they do that, right? But from the other side I think I made snowboarding a little more popular, and I think a lot of fans would be happy to see me compete in both,” Ledecka said. “It’s their decision, and I have to respect it.”

Ledecka has not decided which worlds she’ll compete in. She’s currently going back and forth between the snowboard and ski circuits.

Last week, she finished first and second in two parallel GS events in Italy and then switched to downhill skis this week. She was fastest in a downhill training run Monday before finishing 29th in Tuesday’s race.

“I think I can decide right before,” Ledecka said. “But it will probably be early, so I’m well prepared.”

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Chloe Kim makes it five straight wins with Dew Tour title

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Chloe Kim capped one of the greatest years in snowboarding history by repeating as Dew Tour champion in Breckenridge, Colo., on Sunday.

The 18-year-old PyeongChang gold medalist won a modified halfpipe contest with a 94.67-point first run on a course that combines slopestyle features with a halfpipe. She beat a field that included Olympic silver and bronze medalists Liu Jiayu and Arielle Gold.

Kim has won five straight contests — the X Games in January, the Olympics in February, the U.S. Open in March and, to open this season, victories the last two weekends. No other rider won the X Games, Olympics and U.S. Open in one year.

Kim decided to compete this season rather than enroll in college. She tweeted in March that she was accepted to Princeton.

She is expected to go for a fourth X Games Aspen title in five years next month, which would tie her for second all-time among women behind Kelly Clark, who has six halfpipe crowns.

The retired Gretchen Bleiler also won four X Games golds. Clark, a 35-year-old, five-time Olympian, said last month that she was undecided if she will compete again.

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Johnny Weir, more Olympians among Google’s trending athletes of 2018

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Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White were the third- and fourth-most Google-trending athletes in the world in 2018.

The full list:
1. Tristan Thompson, Basketball
2. Alexis Sánchez, Soccer
3. Lindsey Vonn, Alpine Skiing
4. Shaun White, Snowboarding
5. Khabib Nurmagomedov, MMA
6. Kawhi Leonard, Basketball
7. Naomi Osaka, Tennis
8. Philippe Coutinho, Soccer
9. Conor McGregor, MMA
10. Harry Kane, Soccer

The list is based on search terms that had the highest spike in 2018 compared to 2017. Which would explain why Winter Olympians would outrank the likes of LeBron James and Tom Brady.

In the U.S., “Olympic medal count” ranked ninth in trending news, just behind the royal wedding. White and Vonn were Nos. 2 and 3 on the U.S. athletes top 10, with Chloe Kim in eighth and NBC Sports figure skating analyst Johnny Weir in 10th as the only retired athlete on the list.

Google also published a Year in Search video that included Mirai Nagasu and Kim.

In 2016, the Rio Olympics was the top trending sporting event, while Michael Phelps was the No. 3 trending person behind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with Simone Biles in fifth and Ryan Lochte ninth.

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