Regional Sports News
BONGPYEONG, South Korea — Ester Ledecka, the twice golden Olympic snowboarder from the Czech Republic, sprinted through the crowd at the base of the parallel giant slalom course where she’d just won her second – and less shocking than the first — gold medal of these PyeongChang Games.
She found her target and wrapped her arms around her Steamboat Springs coach, Justin Reiter.
“We did it,” said the 22-year-old Ledecka, who stunned the world when she won alpine skiing’s super-G race a week before, besting super-G favorite Lindsey Vonn and becoming the first woman to win gold in two sports at the same Winter Olympics as well as the first athlete to ever win both a skiing and snowboarding contest at the Games.
“No, you did it,” said Reiter, a 2014 Olympic snowboard racer who retired last year to take over as snowboard coach for Ledecka.
“Well, you should be proud too,” Ledecka said.
Ledecka is a powerhouse in parallel giant slalom, a side-by-side, crowd-thrilling race. She’s the reigning world champion and her wins through several heats on Saturday were decisive. She rides one of the longest — 185 cm — and stiffest boards in women’s snowboard racing.
“When you look at what Ester is able to do on a board … she’s quite aggressive,” Reiter said. “And she trains harder than anybody. The cliches are all very true and very relevant with her.”
Last spring Reiter stepped away from professional snowboard racing. At the same time, he joined Ledecka and the Czech team to help hone the country’s hard-booted parallel giant slalom athletes. He joined a team he never had with the U.S., which does not support a parallel giant slalom program. Reiter lived in the back of his Toyota truck while he trained for the Sochi Olympics in Park City, Utah. He was the only U.S. athlete competing in parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom in Sochi. He sued the International Olympic Committee in 2016 after the organization decided in June 2016 to drop parallel slalom from the 2018 and 2022 Winter Games.
He joined the Czech Republic team when a beloved coach fell ill and was unable to work on the mountain.
“I wanted to be there to help my friends and I didn’t feel the drive to snowboard myself anymore and I know what these people are capable of,” he said. “It’s just an honor to help in any way that I can.”
He said he doesn’t miss racing, but he does pine a bit for the sensation of that high-speed carve, going weightless in the heel-to-toe-to-heel carving over the course’s knoll. But wait, he said, this isn’t about him.
“Ester just raised the bar. What she was just able to do with her mental strength, her abilities – physical and mental – and her heart …,” he said, trailing off with a head-shake.
Reiter coached Ledecka alongside a deep Czech Republic team that included a physiologist and her two ski coaches.
This year, he said, the biggest thing they focused on was teaching her to make the best choices and to take charge of her racing.
“In the past, she’s kinda been a racehorse. We pointed her in the right direction and let her go,” he said. “This year we wanted to teach her accountability in her riding … in her decision making. That’s really empowered her. Today, it was everything coming together to see her make the best decisions. She’s a true champion.”
The golden coach was wearing Team USA’s Burton snowboard pants and a USA beanie. And of course, the ambitiously golden Czech Republic team jacket.
“It’s a jacket for golden moments,” he said.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — United States wins Olympic gold medal in men’s curling, beats Sweden 10-7 in final.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The American men have won the Olympic gold medal in curling in a decisive upset of Sweden.
John Shuster skipped the United States to a 10-7 victory on Saturday for only the second curling medal in U.S. history. Shuster was part of the other one, too, as the lead thrower on Pete Fenson’s bronze-medal team at the 2006 Turin Games.
The Americans received a good luck call from Mr. T before the match. The King of Sweden was there, as was U.S. presidential daughter Ivanka Trump.
They saw Shuster convert a double-takeout for a five-ender in the eighth — an exceedingly rare score that made it 10-5 and essentially clinched the win.
Usually, senior leaders are the catalysts behind a high school basketball team’s state tournament success.
But amid this winter’s big-school girls basketball playoffs, there’s a number of standout freshmen and sophomores in Class 5A and 4A who are also capable of tipping the scales in the pursuit of a title.
That youth movement is seen most obviously in the 5A frontrunners, Regis Jesuit and Grandview.
The freshman combination of point guard Avery VanSickle and small forward Samantha Jones, in addition to sophomore guard Jada Moore, give the Raiders a depth rivaled only by the Wolves, which boasts freshman forward Addison O’Grady as well as impact sophomore guards Landri Hudson and Tomia Johnson.
Those six aforementioned names are just the tip of the iceberg in a state where the proliferation of girls basketball talent surpasses the boys, not just in Division I recruiting numbers but in the eye test as well.
And in the state’s Class of 2018 commits, there are a dozen Division I girls commits compared to eight for the boys, per CHSAANow’s list.
The upswing in local girls hoops, cultivated in part by top clubs such as Colorado Basketball Club, Mile Hi Magic, B.C. Denver and Colorado Premier, is underscored by a talent pool that continues to replenish. Each time a Michaela Onyenwere graduates, there’s a Fran Belibi there to take her place.
And in a girls game where getting freshmen and sophomores state tournament experience is pivotal to a program’s future success, the following players are all also on the floor this winter because they can help their teams win now.
Highlands Ranch freshman guard Payton Muma is a key component for the Falcons, who bested Legacy and its standout sophomore, point guard Halle Mackiewicz, in the second round on Friday.
Plus, Cherry Creek is led by sophomore point guard Jana Van Gytenbeek (Stanford commit) in addition to freshmen guards Abby Wrede and Kacee Kyle, while Arapahoe sophomore point guard Kali March and Fairview sophomore guard Izzy Munson could propel their teams on runs.
Out of the Jeffco League, Ralston Valley freshman point guard Sydney Bevington and Lakewood sophomore wing Nadia Trevizo are instrumental in their respective 5A chances. And in 4A, Golden sophomore forward Ellie Garnett is crucial, as is the Valor Christian freshman guard tandem of Jenna Siebert and Karissa Lukasiewcz off the bench — especially in light of January’s season-ending knee injury to Eagles’ phenom freshman point guard Kindyll Wetta.
Elsewhere in 4A, Holy Family freshman point guard Genevieve Gudino brings the Tigers energy and scoring; Pueblo West sophomore guard Hannah Simental is the leading scorer for the top-seeded Cyclones; Mesa Ridge is bolstered by sophomores in point guard Serin Dunne, guard Serin Dunne and point guard Monet Hubbard; and Air Academy features sophomore guard Kylee Blacksten, who has played the most minutes of anyone for 22-1 Cadets.
All of these players were in middle school as recently as last year, or the year before. Now, they could be called on to hit a big shot in the most pressurized moments at the Denver Coliseum.
These youngsters are ready.
COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs Air Force Academy officials say it has suspended 11 members of its men’s swimming team who were in the center of a misconduct investigation.
The academy’s spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in an email that cadets who are not in good standing are banned from representing the academy in external events.
The Gazette reported Thursday that the academy declined to provide details of the alleged misconduct.
Academy athletes have a history of misconduct investigations.
In October, the academy investigated several men’s lacrosse coaches and players.
In 2014, an investigation by the Gazette uncovered misconduct by academy athletes including drug use, binge drinking and sexual assault.
Two year prior, 27 cadets were injured in an unofficial hazing event for freshman cadets held on the first snowfall each year.
Information from: The Gazette
Nikola Jokic, who has suddenly become a triple-double machine, walked to the Nuggets bench with 1:46 to play Friday night. He could no longer help his team against San Antonio, picking up his sixth foul with Denver clinging to a one-point advantage.
Jokic’s teammates finished the job. Gary Harris nailed a step-back jumper. Wilson Chandler pulled down a rebound on the other end of the floor, then found Harris for a run-out slam. Finally, Plumlee threw down a left-handed dunk over Pau Gasol in the final seconds, before unleashing a yell to another raucous Pepsi Center crowd.
The streaking Nuggets pulled out another late win over a quality opponent, this time topping the Spurs 122-119 in their first game since the all-star break. And it was the type of performance that left coach Michael Malone demanding more national recognition for Jokic and his teammates.
“At some point our team will get the respect they deserve, because right now we’re not getting it,” Malone said. “ … If we continue to win and we continue to play really exciting, good basketball, people will take notice.”
Denver (33-26) has won 10 of its last 13 games to hold steady in sixth place — and also move within a game in the loss column of the third-place Spurs (35-25) — in a tightly contested Western Conference. The Nuggets have won four in a row for the first time in 2017-18, all against opponents that would be in the postseason if it began Sunday. The victory was also an ideal start to the stretch run for Denver, which next hosts Houston, currently the top seed in the West, on Sunday and the ninth-place Clippers on Tuesday before playing 11 of their 15 games in March on the road.
During this season-best stretch, the Nuggets have been propelled by an offense that ranks third in the NBA in efficiency with 115.4 points per 100 possessions, second in field-goal percentage (49.1) and second in assists (28.4 per game). Friday night, six Nuggets finished in double figures, highlighted by Chandler’s 18 points and 16 rebounds and Harris’ 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
But Jokic was again the star, racking up 28 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to record his third consecutive triple-double and fifth since Jan. 27. He’s averaging 20.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and nine assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 47.9 percent from 3-point distance during Denver’s 13-game surge, prompting Malone to declare that his big man deserved to partake in last weekend’s all-star festivities and should now be part of the MVP conversation.
“He is one of the best all-around players in the game,” Malone said. “Not young players. Not big guys. Not small guys. He is one of the best players in the NBA right now, and he’s proving it against the best teams and the best players every single night.”
After letting an eight-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets regrouped while staging their own rally in the final minutes.
San Antonio used an 11-1 run to flip a 111-103 deficit into a two-point advantage with 4:27 to play, capped by five free throws from star LaMarcus Aldridge amidst a flurry of whistles that included Malone and Denver point guard Jamal Murray getting called for technical fouls for arguing with the officials. Aldridge, who did not play when the Spurs and Nuggets met less than 10 days ago due to injury, finished with 38 points on 13-of-23 shooting and 12-of-14 from the foul line — the biggest benefactor of a 39-19 free-throw advantage for the Spurs.
But Plumlee, who finished with 12 points in his return from an eight-game absence due to a calf injury, answered on Denver’s next possession with an alley-oop dunk off a Jokic lob to tie the game at 114. Then came six consecutive points from Harris to put Denver back on top 120-115 with 45.3 seconds to play. After an Aldridge pull-up jumper, Plumlee got a feed from Murray off the pick and roll for the game-clinching jam.
“We felt like we overcame a lot in that game,” Plumlee said. “To hit the ground running and get a win right out of the break, we handled that really well.”
As Malone took his normal postgame position in a hallway outside the Nuggets’ locker room and made his pointed case for more widespread respect, Spurs legendary coach Gregg Popovich happened to walk by the media scrum. Popovich repeatedly screamed an expletive as a playful and sarcastic rebuttal to his friend, prompting Malone to counter with “I love you, too, Pop!”
But if the Nuggets keep pulling out wins like Friday — the latest over a quality opponent during this season-best 13-game stretch — Jokic believes the national recognition will eventually arrive.
“These are the games where you earn your respect,” Jokic said.
Nikola Jokic, who has suddenly become a triple-double machine, lifted his hands in disbelief as he was called for his sixth foul with the Nuggets clinging to a one-point lead with less than two minutes to play Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Not to worry. Gary Harris drilled a step-back jumper and got free in transition for a dunk. Then Mason Plumlee, playing for the first time since Jan. 29, finished it off with his own slam.
Those thunderous finishes, along with Jokic’s third consecutive triple-double, pushed the Nuggets to a 122-119 win at the Pepsi Center in their first game after the all-star break.
The Nuggets (33-26), who are jockeying for position in a tight Western Conference playoff race, have now won 10 of their last 13 games and improved to 24-7 at home. The victory was an ideal start to the stretch run for Denver, which next hosts Houston, currently the top seed in the West, on Sunday and the ninth-place Clippers on Tuesday before playing 11 of their 15 games in March on the road.
Jokic finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists before fouling out with 1:46 to play to record his fifth triple-double since Jan. 27. Five other Nuggets finished in double figures, including Harris’ 23 points and Wilson Chandler’s 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Denver led by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter but needed to stage their own late rally. LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 38 points points after missing the last meeting with the Nuggets less than 10 days ago because of an injury, gave the Spurs a 114-112 lead with 4:27 left after a flurry of whistles that included technical fouls called on Nuggets coach Michael Malone and point guard Jamal Murray. But Plumlee answered with an alley-oop finish from Jokic, before Harris’ scooping finish gave Denver a 116-114 advantage leading into Denver’s final charge.
The fouls called on Denver were a theme throughout, as the Spurs went 28-of-39 from the free-throw line compared to a 14-of-19 mark for the Nuggets.
Denver briefly took control of a game late in the third quarter.
After Aldridge drained another of his textbook 10-foot jumpers to give San Antonio an 81-78 lead at the 4:50 mark, the Nuggets closed the quartere on an 18-8 run. A Trey Lyles 3-pointer tied the game at 83 with 3:26 left, while two free throws from Plumlee (who returned from an eight-game absence because of a calf strain) gave Denver a 96-87 advantage with 8.9 seconds left in the frame.
The Spurs lost despite shooting 50.6 percent from the field. Denver shot 49.5 percent.
VAIL — Dr. Mike Decker is one of those guys who looks at a phenomenon, wonders “what happens next?” and finds out.
For example, he wanted to know whether ski racers switching from skinny slalom skis to fat skis for overall skiing affected their race performance.
“We want to know what happens,” Decker said.
So did eight Vail Mountain School ski racers, which explains how Decker ended up on Golden Peak this week, answering the Great American Question: “How fast can they go?”
Decker is a director and chief scientific officer of the Rocky Mountain Consortium for Sports Research, an Edwards-based nonprofit that conducts research outside a laboratory. Besides that, Decker is a biomechanical consultant in the Human Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Denver.
Read the full story at vaildaily.com.
Silverthorne snowboarder Kyle Mack is bringing home a Big Air medal for Team USA. Mack earned a silver medal after he landed a frontside 1440 Bloody Dracula. Cool name and an awesome trick. Check it out below.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 24, 2018
DAEGWALLYEONG, South Korea — Kyle Mack will bring a second snowboarding medal back home to Silverthorne thanks in part to his one-of-a-kind bloody Dracula grab.
With hands behind his back grabbing the tail of his snowboard and spinning 1440 degrees while flipping two backflips, the 20-year-old first-time Olympian won silver in the Olympic debut of men’s snowboard big air here Saturday.
With top big air riders like Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris struggling to stay consistent over three runs — the the top two runs are scored cumulatively — Mack’s triple-cork 1440 and double-cork 1440 bloody Dracula earned silver behind Canada’s Sebastien Toutant and ahead of Great Britain’s Billy Morgan.
It was the first-time Mack had ever landed the double 1440 with the bloody Dracula, a sketchy grab with high consequences. Mack is one of the few to ever throw it in a major competition and the only rider to ever match it with four rotations. His second run in the Olympics was the first time he ever landed the 1440 with a double-grabbed bloody Dracula after four failed attempts in training.
“The fifth time, I guess, is a charm,” said Mack, who leaped the fence into the arms of his family after winning silver. “The tears coming off my dad’s eyes it was hard me to hold mine back. They are my biggest supporters that have always been there for me.”
His Summit County neighbor, Chris Corning, went into round three in third place but needed something big to edge past Morgan on his final jump. He tried the super-rare quad-cork 1800, the only of the contest.
“Four more feet of air and we would have landed it. I just couldn’t get over my board to land it,” said the 18-year-old Corning, who has stuck quad-cork 1800s on six different jumps but was unable to get it around on the first-ever Olympic jump. He was up top and asked his coaches if he should pull out the first quad 1800 of the contest.
“They didn’t really help me much,” he said. “They said ‘I don’t know.’ They did say that I’ve done it more so that was kind of what we decided to try. I gave it my best shot.”
The two rounds of qualifying contests were a showcase of snowboarding’s aeronautical progression, with switch 1620s and serious spinning. The finals were more conservative. That didn’t surprise Corning.
“Qualifying was pretty gnarly but I did not expect it to be that gnarly here because you have to be way more consistent,” he said.
Silverthorne’s Red Gerard, the 17-year-old snowboarding phenom who won gold in last week’s second-ever Olympic slopestyle contest, was fourth heading into the final jump but was unable to reach the podium, scratching a bit on the landing of his final triple-cork 1440. He’d spent a few days in New York and appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel talk show in between his slopestyle gold and big air debut.
He was so happy for his friend Mack.
“It was so sick what Kyle was doing. He did a frontside 14 double-grab bloody Dracula and that has never been done. I’m psyched for him,” Gerard.
After winning gold last week, Gerard said he treated the Olympics like any other snwobarding contest but didn’t really grasp the scale and importance of the event.
“Definitely when I won gold I figured out big it was,” he said, noting his eagerness for the show to end so he could get back home to snowmobile and ride powder. “I’m not the biggest fan of big air, I’m more of a slopestyle guy. I’m really psyched to get on my board and start riding slopestyle again. It’s been really claustrophobic here in a way.”
Cameras were trained on Ivanka Trump for most of the contest. She was sitting with former Olympians and her team, standing and cheering for the Colorado riders for each of their runs.
“I did not really know that. I’m pretty psyched she got to come out and see what we can do,” Gerard said. “It’s definitely pretty cool to watch.”
The contest saw riders attempting some of the hardest tricks in snowboarding, including Mack’s second and third run backside triple-cork 1620, which was his first-ever but did not score as high as his first-run backside triple-cork 1440 with the challenging Japan grab. Every time he landed, he seemed stunned with his performance.
“You would be shocked too when you land two runs you’ve never really done before,” said Mack, who said an obligation to protect style in snowboarding over technical spinning prodded him to dig for the bloody Dracula. ““The whole reason I wanted to do it was for snowboarding and bringing style into snowboarding is kind of the main thing I’ve always worked on.”