Patrick Chan

Key information for Skate Canada

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The second Grand Prix figure skating event of the Olympic season will feature battles between two men with Olympic gold-medal hopes and three U.S. women in contention for Olympic spots and the biggest threat to Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Skate Canada in St. John, New Brunswick, begins Friday. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

Friday
Pairs short program, 2-3:10
Women’s short program, 3:35-4:50
Short dance, 7-8:10
Men’s short program, 8:30-9:50.

Saturday
Pairs free skate, 12-1:25
Women’s free skate, 2:15-3:40
Free dance, 4:30-5:45
Men’s free skate, 7:10-8:50.

NBC will provide coverage from 4-6 on Sunday.

Here are storylines for each event:

Men’s

Olympic favorite Patrick Chan, the three-time reigning world champion, makes his Grand Prix season debut against a Japanese teenager who could be his biggest challenger come Sochi.

Chan, 22, took second at 2012 Skate Canada to Spain’s Javier Fernandez, after winning in 2010 and 2011. The Olympics are more than three months away, but he’s already feeling pressure to win Canada’s first Olympic men’s figure skating title.

He hopes competing in front of home fans will help him get into a groove for the Olympic season. Chan is keeping his world-record short program from last season and reverting his free skate music to what he skated to before he became an Olympian (he was fifth in Vancouver). The free skate reportedly begins with back-to-back quadruple jumps.

Chan’s phone call with Sidney Crosby

At Skate Canada, Chan could be challenged by Yuzuru Hanyu, who previously held the short program world record.

Hanyu, 18, finished third and fourth at the last two World Championships and is at the top of a deep crop of Japanese skaters. He could have challenged for gold at the World Championships in March if not for a fall in a disastrous ninth-place short program.

Hanyu, who reportedly crawled out of his home rink in Japan during a 2011 earthquake and does not own a cell phone, now trains with 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser in Toronto.

He’s one of few men who can land a quadruple Salchow and landed two quads and two triple Axels in his free skate to easily win Finlandia Trophy earlier this month.

The three-man American contingent is composed of three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, reigning U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner and reigning world junior champion Josh Farris.

All three are in contention for two men’s Olympic spots to be named after the U.S. Championships in Boston in January. Three other contenders, Max Aaron, Adam Rippon and Jason Brown did not perform exceptionally at Skate America. A strong performance in Canada could push Abbott, Miner or Farris closer to favorite status, though it’s still very early.

Abbott, 28, won Skate Canada in 2009 before a disappointing ninth-place finish at the Vancouver Olympics.

Women’s 

Reigning Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim was supposed to compete in St. John but pulled out last month with a foot injury.

Without the Olympic favorite, the major storyline will be on the three U.S. women — Gracie GoldChristina Gao and Courtney Hicks.

All three harbor hopes of making the U.S. Olympic team, which will have three women’s spots. Two-time reigning national champion Ashley Wagner, second at Skate America last week, is the favorite for one spot. Gold, Gao and Hicks are in contention as well, along with Agnes Zawadzki.

Gold, 18, will compete for the first time since teaming with the venerable Frank Carroll, who coaches Evan Lysacek and was the long-time coach of Michelle Kwan. Before switching to Carroll, Gold had a disappointing season debut at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City in September.

Gold begins skating with Carroll

Hicks, 17, stepped up to upset Gold at the U.S. International Classic and entered Skate Canada as a replacement for the injured Kim. She placed fourth at her first senior National Championships in January, behind Wagner, Gold and Zawadzki and ahead of Gao.

We’re still waiting for Gao’s domestic breakout. She’s been fifth at the last four National Championships. Her senior career highlight came at the Four Continents Championship in February, where she was fourth, the top U.S. finisher ahead of Gold and Zawadzki.

Wagner looked strong in debuting her triple-triple combination at Skate America. The question is if Gold, Hicks and Gao can somewhat keep pace Friday and Saturday.

Ice Dance

Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their 13th straight Grand Prix event at Skate America last week, but that title came without the competition of rivals and training partners, Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Virtue and Moir make their Grand Prix season debut this weekend against a field that doesn’t include Davis and White. It’s hard to see them not winning in St. John. The other top couple, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, were fourth and fifth at the last two World Championships.

Virtue and Moir, who will have their own TV show debuting in January, hope the start of this season goes smoother than last year when Moir was sidelined by a neck injury. Davis and White beat Virtue and Moir at the three biggest competitions last season — World Championships, Grand Prix Final and Four Continents.

The Canadians won Finlandia Trophy (again, without Davis and White) by 25 points, but the Toronto Maple Leafs fan Moir said they were 30 points behind their overall scoring goal.

It’s on Virtue and Moir to come out strong separately and then potentially challenge Davis and White at the Grand Prix Final in December to make the Sochi Olympics interesting.

The U.S. ice dancing entry at Skate Canada is Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who are in contention for one of three ice dance Olympic spots.

Pairs

Like in ice dance, the top two pairs couples in the world are pretty defined — Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov and Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.

They are not in the Skate Canada field. Expect Canadian world bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford to prevail in their absence.

The U.S. pairs entered are Lindsay Davis and Rockne Brubaker and Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier.

Davis and Brubaker teamed up in February, after Davis finished fourth at the U.S. Championships with 2010 Olympian Mark Ladwig. Brubaker was a favorite to make the 2010 Olympic team with Keauna McLaughlin, but they were upset at the 2010 U.S. Championships. Davis and Brubaker were fifth at Nebelhorn Trophy in September.

The 2013 world junior champions Denney and Frazier were fifth at the U.S. Championships, but the top U.S. pairs — Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir — can be caught. Both U.S. pairs at Skate Canada can make early statements this weekend.

Update on Plushenko’s Olympic training

PyeongChang Olympic medals unveiled (photos)

PyeongChang Olympic medal
PyeongChang 2018
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The medals for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics were unveiled in a joint Seoul-New York City ceremony on Wednesday.

The Korean Hangul alphabet was incorporated into the medals’ edges to spell what translates to “PyeongChang Winter Olympics.”

Recent Winter Olympic medals include the Italian piazza design for Torino, the undulating surfaces for Vancouer and a patchwork quilt with diamond-shaped openings for Sochi.

The medals for the previous Olympics in South Korea — the 1988 Seoul Summer Games — were of the more traditional variety.

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MORE: What to watch every day of the PyeongChang Olympics

Medals from past Olympics:

Seoul 1988/Getty Images
Cindy Klassen
Torino 2006/Getty Images
Vancouver 2010
Sochi 2014/Getty Images

U.S. names women’s gymnastics team for world champs

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It was already assured, but now it’s official.

The U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the world championships named Wednesday includes zero Olympians.

As the wait continues for possible elite comebacks by Simone BilesGabby Douglas, Aly RaismanLaurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian, these four gymnasts will chase medals in Montreal in two weeks:

Ragan Smith
P&G Championships all-around winner
Olympic alternate

Smith was the clear favorite going into the P&G Championships, and she delivered. The Texan coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal Burdette won by 3.4 points, which is greater than the average margin of victory of Biles’ four U.S. all-around titles.

The pressure is on Smith to keep an incredible streak alive. An American gymnast has won every Olympic and world all-around title since 2011. The biggest threat could be Romanian Larisa Iordache, who shared the all-around podium with Biles in 2014 and 2015.

With no team event at worlds this year, the focus is first and foremost on the all-around.

Morgan Hurd
P&G Championships all-around sixth-place finisher

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware. She must have really impressed at this week’s selection camp to get a spot over P&G Championships all-around silver medalist Jordan Chiles, who was named an alternate.

Though she had struggles at P&Gs, Hurd is capable of one of the world’s best floor exercise routines.

Ashton Locklear
P&G Championships uneven bars silver medalist
Olympic alternate

The “veteran” of this team at age 19 and the only one with world championships experience. Locklear was probably the closest of the alternates to making the Olympic team, getting edged out by Kocian for the uneven bars specialist spot.

Locklear missed an uneven bars medal at 2014 Worlds by .017. She was second to Riley McCusker on bars last month at P&Gs, where she wasn’t performing her most difficult set.

Jade Carey
P&G Championships vault winner

Carey hopes to follow the path of Kayla Williams, who in 2009 went from not even being an elite-level gymnast to winning the world vault title. Carey, 17, struggled with her Amanar at P&Gs, falling once and nearly sitting it down on the second day.

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