Kate Hansen

Kate Hansen, Chris Mazdzer win USA Luge National Championships

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Kate Hansen surprised the top two U.S. sliders at the National Luge Championships, beating Olympians Erin Hamlin and Julia Clukey for her first U.S. title.

Hansen, 21, posted a two-run time of 1 minute, 30.136 seconds at the Mount Van Hoevenberg track in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Sunday. Clukey, the 2012 U.S. champion, took second in 1:30.326. Hamlin, the 2008-2011 national champion, was third in 1:30.386.

“I’m impressed I had it in me,” Hansen told The Associated Press. “I’m feeling pretty good. It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m more or less just grateful that I threw down some solid runs.”

2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer won the men’s crown in 1:46.498, as expected, and Jacob Hyrns and Andrew Sherk won their first doubles title.

The U.S. team for the World Cup season, which begins Nov. 16 in Lillehammer, Norway, will be determined after more races in Park City, Utah, on Oct. 20.

Hansen’s win makes her the early favorite to secure the third women’s berth on the Olympic team, should the U.S. qualify the maximum three spots as it’s expected to do. A nation’s Olympic spots are determined by World Cup results, as is the specific U.S. Olympic team.

Hansen, the 2008 world junior champion, tied with Emily Sweeney as the third-ranked U.S. woman in World Cup points standings last season. They were 20th overall. Clukey was sixth, and Hamlin, the 2009 world champion, was seventh.

Sweeney was fourth at the National Championships on Sunday.

Hansen, then 17, Sweeney and Sweeney’s older sister, Megan, competed in a race-off for the final berth on the 2010 Olympic team. Megan Sweeney won that spot.

For the men, Mazdzer is the only member of the 2010 Olympic team still active. He beat Tucker West by .114 of a second after the two tied for the National Championship last fall. Taylor Morris was third, followed by Aidan Kelly.

In doubles, Hyrns and Sherk ousted 2012 national champions Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall (1:30.210) Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman placed third (1:30.493).

How Olympic bobsled teams are shaping up

Wagner, Asada, Hanyu headline NHK Trophy in Japan; Grand Prix Final berths on the line

Ashley Wagner
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Three-time U.S. national champion Ashley Wagner looks to qualify for her fourth consecutive Grand Prix Final at this weekend’s NHK Trophy in Nagano, Japan. A medal of any color should be good enough to get her to Barcelona, but she faces a tough field.

Japan’s Mao Asada returned to competition this season and is poised to qualify for the most elite competition since the Sochi Olympics (where she finished sixth) and 2014 World Championships (which she won). Finishing on the podium would earn a berth to the final for Asada. Also in the field are Americans Mirai Nagasu and Courtney Hicks, Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, and one of Russia’s darlings from last season, Anna Pogorilaya.

Olympic champion and last year’s Grand Prix Final winner Yuzuru Hanyu, surely to be the overwhelming crowd favorite in the men’s field, will look to improve his short program results from his other Grand Prix appearance. At Skate Canada, two of his three jumping passes recceived zero points. He rallied in the free skate, finishing second behind Canada’s Patrick Chan. Chan is essentially a lock for the final, while a top three finish would seal the deal for Hanyu.

MORE: Javier Fernandez qualifies for second straight home Grand Prix Final

Other men in the hunt for Grand Prix Final berths competing in Nagano include China’s Jin Boyang and Russia’s Maxim Kovtun, who also need podium finishes to lock up spots in Barcelona. Jin’s and Kovtun’s finishes will likely dictate whether or not American Max Aaron qualifies to the final. More on that process here. No U.S. man has qualified since Jeremy Abbott did it in 2011.

MORE: Jason Brown withdraws from NHK Trophy

Reigining U.S. pairs champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim can make the Grand Prix Final with a medal in Japan.

The U.S. is sending three ice dance couples to Japan, of which two have a shot at qualifying for Barcelona. Siblings and Sochi Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani can finish in any 1-2 combination with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue allowing for both duos to qualify for the final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, U.S. ice dance champions, already qualified.

Icenetwork.com will stream for subscribers live coverage of men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance short programs and free skates. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Men’s short program — Friday, 2:10 a.m. ET (start order here)
Women’s short program — Friday, 5:05 a.m. ET (start order here)
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 2:30 a.m. ET
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 5:35 a.m. ET

Inside the #RoadtoRio photo shoots

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NBC Olympics
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Bringing together over 100 Summer Olympians and Olympic hopefuls with puppies, samba dancers and supermodels, NBC Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee partnered for an extensive five-day media summit in West Hollywood, Ca. The athletes took part in photo shoots, interviews and video segments all in preparation for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Over the course of the summit, participants shared behind-the-scenes moments on social media using the #RoadtoRio hashtag. NBC Olympics also launched its official Snapchat account, with the username NBCOlympics. Here are some of the highlights:

Olympians fell in puppy love:


Then got a crash course in Brazil’s signature dance, the samba:


A photobooth with props let the athletes–and even Bob Costas–show off their silly sides:


Olympic fans like Alessandra Ambrosio and Flula dropped by:


In between shoots, athletes from different sports mingled:


The faux-Rio beach was the perfect set:


But these Olympic stars needed only a simple white backdrop to shine:

Wait who is the Olympian here! Linnéa stealing the show at the @nbcolympics #roadtorio

A photo posted by Alysia Montaño (@alysiamontano) on


Follow NBC Olympics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat (username NBCOlympics).


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