Despite two uncharacteristic falls during her free skate Saturday night, Ashley Wagner became the first American woman since Michelle Kwan in 2005 to win back-to-back national titles, holding off Gracie Gold, who finished second to earn her spot at the world championships in Ontario this March.
“It’s definitely not the type of win, not the performance I had imagined myself having,” Wagner said of her close victory. “But the fact I was able to repeat as champion with those two performances, that’s something to be proud of.”
Wagner came in with the lead after a solid short program score of 67.57, and threw up a score of 121.27 in the free skate for a total of 188.84, winning her second title by just more than two points.
But Gold, who finished with a total score of 186.57, had both the performance and the move of the night, earning the second highest free skate score in U.S. Championship history by completing a perfect triple-flip, triple-toe combination. She roared back from ninth after a poor short program Thursday.
“I stopped focusing on what was around me, the crowd, the screaming, the other skaters, the pressure, the expectations – I let it all go,” Gold said.” I just pictured myself at my rink in Chicago and even the practices here… I just went out there and skated like I know how to skate.”
Wagner would need to win the next six national titles to match Kwan’s historic haul of eight-in-a-row, but for now she’s happy just to have a shot at a world title and a spot on the Olympic team next February.
U.S. 800m runner Nick Symmonds‘ right shoulder is apparently twice as valuable as his left shoulder.
The two-time Olympian auctioned ad space on his body for a second straight Olympic summer, with the final bid at $21,800 for nine square inches on his right shoulder in an Ebay auction that ended Thursday afternoon.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere‘s Twitter account claimed the winning bid of 107 overall bids.
In 2012, Symmonds auctioned the same nine inches on his left shoulder for $11,100 to Hanson Dodge Creative, a marketing agency based in Milwaukee. Here’s what that temporary tattoo looked like.
Symmonds’ temporary tattoo was not visible during the 2012 Olympics or 2012 Olympic Trials, as rules mandate the advertisement is taped over in those events plus other IAAF competitions.
Symmonds, 32, finished fifth at the 2012 Olympics and second at the 2013 World Championships.
He was left off the 2015 World Championships roster, after winning the national title, after refusing to sign a USA Track and Field contract that required athletes to wear Nike-branded Team USA gear at team functions at Worlds.
Symmonds’ apparel sponsor has been Brooks since January 2014. He was previously a Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club member for seven years.
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Karch Kiraly will continue as U.S. women’s volleyball team head coach through the 2020 Olympics, agreeing to a four-year contract renewal.
“It’s been a tremendous honor to lead this special group of intelligent, powerful, hard-working, dedicated women, and the great staff that supports them — and it’s a double honor to prepare for battle at the Rio Olympics, knowing we’ll have the opportunity to carry that work forward in the next quadrennial,” Kiraly said in a press release.
Kiraly, the only U.S. volleyball player to earn indoor and beach Olympic titles, took over after serving on Hugh McCutcheon‘s staff from 2009 through the 2012 Olympics, where the U.S. women took silver behind Brazil.
Kiraly then led the U.S. women to their first World or Olympic title in 2014. They are ranked No. 1 in the world ahead of China and Brazil.
The program has gone 50 years with zero Olympic golds and broke a 62-year World Championship drought in 2014.
Kiraly, 55, is set to become the first coach of multiple U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball teams since Terry Liskevych from 1988 through 1996.
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