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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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Torah Bright, Olympic champion, no longer competing in halfpipe

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Torah Bright, a 2010 Olympic halfpipe champion and a force in snowboarding for a decade, will no longer compete in halfpipe or the Olympics.

Bright, a 33-year-old expecting her first child in July, is “happy having left the competitions behind,” according to the Aspen (Colo.) Times. Bright’s longtime agent confirmed the report.

“I much prefer to cheer people on than to compete myself,” Bright said, according to the report. “It’s way less stressful. So it’s been fun to know the people who are still competing and love them and cheer them on and watch them do their best.”

Bright is arguably Australia’s greatest Winter Olympian. She toppled Americans Kelly ClarkHannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler for gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, winning from last place after the first of two runs. Bright landed a switch backside 720, coming back after she sustained three concussions in the five weeks before the Games.

In 2014, she took silver behind another American, Kaitlyn Farrington, in Sochi while becoming the first snowboarder to compete in three disciplines (halfpipe, slopestyle, snowboard cross).

Bright scantly competed after Sochi and was left off Australia’s team for PyeongChang. She returned to competition two months before the Olympics for the first time in nearly two years and saw her hopes dashed when she picked up a reported wrist injury.

Bright’s last halfpipe competition was an eighth-place finish at the January 2018 Laax Open in Switzerland.

Correction: An earlier version of this post reported that Bright retired. Bright is no longer competing in halfpipe or the Olympics but does plan to compete in other events.

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Chris Corning wins snowboard big air with quad 1800 at Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park

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American Chris Corning and Japanese Reira Iwabuchi just missed the podium in PyeongChang, each finishing fourth in snowboard big air’s Olympic debut. Neither would be denied at a unique contest Friday, a big air competition inside the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park.

Corning, 20, rallied on his last of three runs, overtaking Canadian Nicolas Laframboise with a 95.25-point score on a quad cork.

“It was a bit of disbelief and a lot of anxiety is relieved from this body,” Corning said on NBCSN. “It’s always super scary trying it.”

Corning was the first U.S. man to qualify for PyeongChang in slopestyle and big air but was left off the podium in South Korea when he just missed landing an ambitious quad cork 1800 on his last run in the big air final.

Iwabuchi, 18, landed a double cork backside 1080 and a double underflip 900 on her first two runs on Friday, according to TV commentators. Her last run was a victory lap, the title already clinched.

Friday’s finals lacked PyeongChang Olympic big air champions Sebastien Toutant of Canada and Anna Gasser of Austria, who were not in the fields.

PyeongChang slopestyle gold medalists Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard did compete, but Anderson crashed out in practice before the final and Gerard was eliminated in qualifying.

The big air competition at SunTrust Park concludes Saturday with the ski event, which makes its Olympic debut in Beijing in 2022.

The fields include Olympic ski slopestyle champion Sarah Höfflin of Switzerland two-time Olympic ski slopestyle medalist American Nick Goepper. NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app air live coverage at 7 p.m. ET.

About 900,000 pounds of snow were brought to the ballpark with a 15-story ramp installed. It’s similar to a big air contest at Fenway Park held in 2016.

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