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Six Oscar-worthy stories from London

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The Oscar nominees are out, and, no surprise, Lincoln scored the most nominations with twelve. That’s because we’re suckers for biopics that show the struggle of the American spirit and ignore the “details” that might muddy the story. And so, here’s six Olympic biopics we’d like to see made from stories plucked from London 2012.

1. SOUTHERN BLADES: Oscar Pistorius, born with missing fibulas, his legs were amputated below the knees as a baby. In 2008 he appealed the Olympic Court of Arbitration for the right to compete with the standard Olympic games, a right that was granted him for the 2012 games where he went on to run in South Africa’s Men’s 4×400 team.

Lead: Jude Law

Oscar Chances: SUPER HIGH

Courtrooms, drama, human triumph, the world stage, and an Oscar for special effects. What’s not to love?

2. WATER WINGS: The true life and story of Michael Phelps: a young boy growing up in Baltimore who would go on to win eight golds in a single Olympics, and twenty-two total medals, to become the most decorated athlete in history.

Lead: John Krasinski (plus muscles)

Oscar Chances: MEDIUM

We have a great story here, especially with his early fourth place finish, keeping the audience guessing if he has one more in him (apparently he had six). But, as with all biopics, you have execute it top to bottom for success (see: Alexander [2004]).

3. MISSY THE MISSLE: The incredible true story of Missy Franklin – teenager, olympian, missile – and her world-capturing performance on the biggest stage imaginable, along with her quest, at 17, towards a gold medal and world record.

Lead: Amy Adams

Oscar Chances: LOW

It’s not a better story than Phelps, and, for some reason – call it appeal – swimming movies have never much translated to the silver screen. Just ask Terrence Howard if you don’t believe us.

4. BOLTING TO THE LINE: “I am now a living legend. Bask in my glory.” Jamaica’s Usain Bolt destroyed the exceptional field (all but one under 10s) of the 100 meters in 9.63 seconds. Also winning the 200 in 19.32, the first athlete to win both sprints in consecutive Olympics. And to top it off, he also ran the anchor leg to set a world record in the 4×100 relay for his third gold.

Lead: Michael B. Jordan

Oscar Chances: MEDIUM

It would all fall on Bolt’s shoulders. His life is as astounding as it is unlikeable. Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali have gone before; there may be little room left for another greatest and his sass ought be handled with great care.

5. FIERCE!: The Fab Five – the five American gymnasts (Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross) who won the all-around gymnastics gold, including the individual champion Gabby Douglas – lived up to their name, bringing home only the second gold ever for the women’s gymnastics team.

Lead: Willow Smith (as Gabby) – and at least one of the Fanning sisters

Oscar Chances: LOW

An ensemble piece would receive great audience appeal – teamwork, perseverance, underdogs – but certainly the Oscars are far above that. And remember Stick It? No? Because most of us would rather just watch real gymnastics.

6. BEST CHASE SCENARIO: the story of the burgeoning friendship between Mo Farah (UK) and Galen Rupp (USA) and the story of how they placed 1-2 at the 2012 Olympics in the 10,000m final for two countries that hadn’t medaled in 104, and 48 years, respectively.

Lead(s): Garrett Hedlund (as Rupp), David Gyasi (as Farah)

Oscar Chances: HIGH

Call me crazy, but everyone loved the running/religious tension in Chariots of Fire, and I can’t think of the last dear-friends-of-different-races-working-together movie that actually worked. It’s time. The Oscars are ready. We’re all ready.


Bryce is a filmmaker in Los Angeles, and does most of his writing for various Disney International publications. But he remains a Seattle sports fan beneath the magical facade.

Haven Denney, Brandon Frazier win U.S. pairs title after year off

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KANSAS CITY — Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier returned from a year off to win their first U.S. pairs title on Saturday, despite an error-prone free skate and against a field lacking any previous U.S. champion teams.

Denney and Frazier jumped from second after the short program to total 188.32 points and win by 2.04 over Sochi Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. Denney and Frazier’s total score was 23.33 points fewer than last year’s winning score.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, who led by 3.96 after the short program, had a strong free skate going until a fall on their throw triple Lutz and finished third Saturday.

Full results are here.

Denney and Frazier were the top U.S. pair in the fall international season by 16 points, taking a silver medal at Skate America.

But Denney struggled on landings in the short program, her right leg wrapped after blowing out her right knee in spring 2015 that caused them to miss the entire 2015-16 season. They also had multiple jumping errors in their free skate, but, unlike the rest of the top five, stayed on their feet Saturday.

“We’re trying harder elements, harder jumps, bigger throws, bigger twists,” Frazier said. “What you see is a couple of ups and downs. This is all building for the next season.”

The U.S. will send two pairs to the world championships in Helsinki in two months, but not definitively the top two finishers from Saturday. The world championships pairs teams will be named Sunday.

Denney and Frazier finished 12th at the 2015 Worlds, after placing second at that year’s U.S. Championships. Castelli and Tran, in their second year as a pair, have no worlds experience together and are ineligible for the 2018 Olympics. Tran, born in Canada, is not a U.S. citizen.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. pair to earn an Olympic or world medal was Kyoka Ina and John Zimmerman at the 2002 Worlds. Eight different pairs have won the last nine U.S. titles.

In 2016, the U.S. pairs finished ninth and 13th at worlds, but both of those teams are out due to injuries.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition in recent seasons, has been out of competition all season due to her September stomach surgery. They have returned to full training.

The Knierims filed a petition to be named to the world championships team, which is selected on a discretionary basis on results from the U.S. Championships and other recent competitions.

“Whatever they decide,” Tran said of a U.S. Figure Skating selection committee, “we’re all for that.”

The 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea withdrew before the free skate Saturday after Kayne suffered a concussion in a short-program fall. They placed fifth in the short program.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Pairs
GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier — 188.32
SILVER: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran — 186.28
BRONZE: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc — 184.41

4. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay — 173.50
5. Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan — 168.90

Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14

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Tara Lipinski says she can remember everything about the 1997 U.S. Championships, when she became the youngest national champion at age 14.

The victory 20 years ago helped catapult her to become the youngest individual Winter Olympic champion of all time a year later.

“It changed my life in that moment [in 1997],” said Lipinski, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “That was when you talk about peaking at the right time. I knew when I stepped off the ice as a national champion, I can be Olympic champion.”

In 1996, Lipinski finished third at age 13 at the U.S. Championships behind Michelle Kwan, who won the first of her nine U.S. titles. Lipinski then struggled at the world championships, taking 15th, while Kwan won.

So Lipinski was certainly not the favorite going into the 1997 U.S. Championships in Nashville.

But she delivered an unforgettable performance, landing seven triple jumps in her free skate, including the first triple loop-triple loop combination, to surpass the short program leader Kwan, who fell twice in her free skate.

“I always got very nervous,” Lipinski said. “Now to be a broadcaster on live television, I always wonder, why do I pick these professions where there’s a lot of pressure? It’s because I love it, and I thrive under it. Looking back then, it was interesting to look back and remember how nervous I was and then that relief and that pure joy. Then realizing what happened in the next year, and how I was able to get to the point that I did still gives me chills. I have to sort of pinch myself.”

For perspective on how long ago that victory was, check out this story from the Chicago Tribune:

Within an hour of Tara Lipinski’s victory at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday night, a “media alert” was on the information table in the press room at the Nashville Arena to announce Lipinski’s site on the Internet.

“Visit America’s hottest sensation at `www.TaraLipinski.com’ ” said the press release from the skater’s agency, Edge Marketing. “Visitors can dive inside Tara’s life by checking out her biography, famiily life stories and other fun facts about Tara (i.e., which of Tara’s talents might pose a threat to Martha Stewart?).”

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