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Max Parrot wins X Games snowboard big air, one year after cancer diagnosis

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Canadian Max Parrot won the biggest annual contest in big air snowboarding, 13 months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Parrot captured the X Games Aspen big air title on Saturday night, his sixth career gold medal in Colorado. But his first since Dec. 21, 2018, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.

“Just to be out here, one year later since I wasn’t here last year, that’s already amazing,” Parrot, who announced July 25 that he beat cancer after 12 rounds of chemotherapy, said on ESPN.

Parrot, an Olympic slopestyle silver medalist, landed a cab triple cork 1620, backside 1620, frontside triple 1620 and a cab 1800, according to broadcasters. He relegated countryman Mark McMorris to silver.

X Games events this year are scored in a jam-session format, where riders are ranked on overall impression rather than a single best run.

McMorris tied Shaun White‘s record of 18 Winter X Games medals across all sites, including in Europe. Parrot also won his comeback event at X Games Norway on Aug. 31.

Later Saturday, the U.S. was shut out of the women’s halfpipe medals for the first time since the X Games moved to Aspen in 2002.

Spain’s Queralt Castellet ended the Americans’ 10-year run of gold medals that included Kelly Clark (now retired) and Chloe Kim (taking the year off to study at Princeton). Maddie Mastro, who beat Kim at the 2019 season-ending Burton U.S. Open, failed to land her signature double crippler and finished eighth. She was the only American in the field.

Two nights earlier, the U.S. failed to earn a men’s halfpipe medal for the first time at an Aspen X Games.

Earlier Saturday, two-time Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson won her sixth X Games Aspen title, one year after missing the slopestyle event after taking a hard fall in big air. Anderson has earned an X Games medal in all 13 of her slopestyle appearances dating to 2006, when she debuted at 15.

In other Saturday events, Canadian Darcy Sharpe won men’s snowboard slopestyle, while U.S. Olympic champion Red Gerard was third for his first X Games medal.

American Colby Stevenson won a ski slopestyle final that lacked Gus Kenworthy, who was seventh in qualifying. Estonian Kelly Sildaru added a ski halfpipe crown to her three slopestyle titles.

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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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Iouri Podladtchikov stretchered off after X Games crash

Iouri Podladtchikov
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ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Olympic champion snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov slammed his face against the halfpipe and had to be carted off the course Sunday at the Winter X Games in an accident that provided a jarring look at the stakes involved in landing a gold-medal run.

Video is here.

Podladtchikov was taken to the hospital, where scans for brain and neck injuries came back negative. X Games officials said he suffered a broken nose and was awake and alert late Sunday night.

The 29-year-old rider better known as the I-Pod was at the end of his second run, trying to complete what had been a clean and high-flying trip with a 1260-degree flip.

As he was gliding back into the pipe, he lost his bearings and his legs crumpled, then his face smacked against the lower part of the halfpipe wall and he slid, motionless, to the bottom.

Medical personnel took about 20 minutes to stabilize Podladtchikov’s neck and strap him into a sled to be taken to the hospital.

“It was terrible. You don’t really know how he’s doing,” said eighth-place finisher Jake Pates, who was the next rider to go after the injury. “He wasn’t moving, there was a crowd of people around him. You can’t help but feel for him. Definitely gets your stomach turned, gets you in a weird head space.”

Immediately, thoughts of Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a practice in 2009, and of halfpipe skier Sarah Burke, who died in a practice in 2012, came to mind.

This accident wasn’t as severe, but the fact it happened in a nationally televised contest — the biggest this side of the Olympics — brought the dangers of the halfpipe to the fore, only two weeks before the Olympics.

“It’s part of it, for sure,” said American Ben Ferguson, who will be in PyeongChang. “People take digs, and you just have to be smart about it. You know you take a risk and you just do what you’ve got to do.”

Indeed, not even the scare of the injury could stop the riders from raising the stakes in the last contest before most of them head to South Korea for the Olympics.

Less than 30 minutes after silence enveloped the previously raucous halfpipe, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist, nailed one of the most daunting runs ever seen — landing back-to-back 1440-degree spins en route to a winning score of 99.

It was I-Pod who landed the first 1440 — the Yolo Flip — in a contest.

That was five years ago with the Sochi Olympics approaching. Podladtchikov’s feat sent two-time Olympic champion Shaun White to work trying to duplicate it. By the end of 2014, they were the only two riders to land it in a competition.

At Sunday’s contest alone, and with White back home in California watching the event, there were three who could — Podladtchikov, Hirano and 17-year-old Toby Miller, who landed it twice on his way to a fifth-place finish.

Those who weren’t gunning for that trick were upping the stakes in other ways.

Australia’s Scotty James, who will contend for the gold in Korea along with White and Hirano, twice completed runs that included three versions of double-cork 1260, including the switch backside 12, in which he rides backward into the wall of the pipe before taking off for two full rotations.

He finished second with a score of 98.

“It kind of speaks for itself,” James said of his trick. “That’s why no one spins switch backside in the halfpipe.”

James said he’ll keep trying his trick. Hirano and White will push on with their 1440s. And if Sunday’s contest was any indication, the halfpipe contest in PyeongChang could be an all-timer.

But one that could go on without the defending champion, Podladtchikov.

“It almost felt like I was the one getting hurt, as well,” Hirano said through a translator. “It did put a little fear in me.”

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