Shaun White among athletes invited to X Games

Shaun White, Chloe Kim and Gus Kenworthy are among the top snowboarders and freeskiers invited to compete in the X Games in January.

ESPN, which owns the event, on Wednesday released a list of invited athletes which includes all medalists from the 2016 X Games in returning disciplines.

Aside from Kim — a 16-year-old phenom who won her second consecutive X Games snowboard halfpipe gold — the list of invitees includes skier Kenworthy, a Sochi silver medalist and double X medalist in 2016; American Maddie Bowman, who has X Games and Olympic golds in freeski superpipe; Estonian Kelly Sildaru, who claimed the freeski slopestyle event at 13 years old; and Canadian Mark McMorris, who won medals in two events in January and has an Olympic bronze in snowboard slopestyle.

Though White is the most well-known athlete in the sport, he was not invited to last year’s event.

ESPN said at the time that he did not meet its criteria of automatically inviting podium finishers after he finished fourth in 2015.

He did not compete in the X Games in 2014 to prepare for the Sochi Olympics, where he withdrew from the slopestyle competition and finished fourth in the halfpipe.

White told USA TODAY Sports last year that he believed he was not invited because of public comments he made regarding ESPN’s global expansion of the X Games.

White has bought into Air + Style, a long-running event that combines a big air competition with music and fashion festival, and has expanded the event.

In addition to White, nine other Olympic medalists who did not finish on the podium in 2016 were invited to the upcoming event. That includes all of the snowboard slopestyle medalists from Sochi — Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov as well as Japanese snowboarders Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka.

Snowboarder Kelly Clark — the winningest snowboarder of all time, with three Olympic medals and 13 X Games medals — was among the invitees. She did not medal in the 2016 X Games and has been recovering from a hip surgery.

Ski and snowboard cross events were not included in the program for the X Games,  which run Jan. 26-29 in Aspen, Colo.

ESPN has added big air competitions for women’s freeskiers and snowboarders. Snowboard big air has been added for men and women in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.


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