Lara Gut

Lara Gut stays hot, wins Beaver Creek super-G; more U.S. problems (video)

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Swiss Lara Gut is off to the best World Cup start by a woman in 23 years, taking the Beaver Creek super-G on Saturday for her third win in four races.

Gut, 22, tamed the new Raptor course in 1 minute 18.42 seconds, beating Austrian Elisabeth Goergl by .90 of a second. Another Austrian, Anna Fenninger, was third (full results at bottom).

(Goergl was disqualified after the race for illegal ski width, moving Fenninger to second and Nicole Hosp to third)

Gut won two World Championships silver medals in 2009 at age 17, making her one of the top challengers to Lindsey Vonn going into the 2010 Olympics. But she missed those Games after dislocating her right hip in a September 2009 training crash.

She’s the first woman since Austrian Petra Kronberger in 1990-91 to win three of the first four races in a World Cup season.

“Everything is going so fast when you’re skiing super-G, so I can’t really remember what happened,” Gut said on NBCSN. “I just tried to push on every gate, because it’s a really challenging course. I tried to ski like in [giant slalom].”

The U.S. contingent struggled Saturday, just as they did in the downhill won by Gut on Friday.

Leanne Smith was the top American in 23rd, followed by Stacey Cook in 28th. Julia Mancuso, a three-time World Championships super-G medalist, was 29th, her worst super-G finish since January 2010.

“I’m just trying to keep it together,” Mancuso told NBCSN. “It’s a long season. Hopefully things get better.

“Got to go back to the drawing board. Figure it out.”

The Beaver Creek World Cup stop concludes with a giant slalom, featuring Mikaela Shiffrin, on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBC Live Extra.

Lindsey Vonn, who has 20 career World Cup super-G wins, hopes to return to the circuit with speed races at Lake Louise, Alberta, beginning Friday. Vonn suffered a partially torn right ACL in a training crash on Nov. 19, nine months after blowing out her right knee at the World Championships.

Beaver Creek super-G
1. Lara Gut (SUI) 1:18.42
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:19.34
3. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 1:19.53
4. Ilka Stuhec (SLO) 1:19.67
5. Nadia Fanchini (ITA) 1:19.70
6. Dominique Gisin (SUI) 1:19.93
7. Sofia Goggia (ITA) 1:19.96
8. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:20.07
9. Fabienne Suter (SUI) 1:20.11
10. Tessa Worley (FRA) 1:20.19
10. Lotte Smiseth Sejersted (NOR) 1:20.19
23. Leanne Smith (USA) 1:21.14
28. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:21.36
29. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:21.43
31. Laurenne Ross (USA) 1:22.00
34. Julia Ford (USA) 1:22.22
43. Megan McJames (USA) 1:23.55
DNF. Anna Marno (USA)
DNF. Jacqueline Wiles (USA)

U.S. Ski Team depth on display in Beaver Creek, Lake Louise

Nathan Chen ushers in new era with record-breaking nationals short program

ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 24: Nathan Chen looks on after competing in the Men's Free Skate at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championship on January 24, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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KANSAS CITY — Nathan Chen is in position to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 51 years and, as he said Friday night, help put the U.S. “back on the map” in men’s skating.

Chen, 17 and already an Olympic medal contender, tallied 106.39 points in the short program, taking Jeremy Abbott‘s U.S. Championships record of 99.86 from 2014 off the books.

He carries a whopping 17.72-point lead into Sunday’s free skate (4 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Chen, a past U.S. novice and junior champion, landed two quadruple jumps and continued his rise in a breakout senior season after taking silver at the Grand Prix Final last month.

He said after his skate that he’s ready to handle the tag of Olympic medal contender and to go for the world title in Helsinki in March.

“I’m able to stack up against these top-level skaters,” said Chen, who beat the reigning Olympic and world champions in the Grand Prix Final free skate. “That’s something I’ve strived for my whole life. I don’t think it’s something I should necessarily be afraid of, something that I’ve wanted my whole life.”

Chen leads the U.S. Championships over a member of the old guard, Ross Miner, a 25-year-old who made three straight U.S. podiums from 2011-13 but none since.

Vincent Zhou, who turned 16 three months ago, was third, but within .82 of Miner. Full results are here.

“Nathan Chen has always been a few steps ahead of me,” said Zhou, who won the 2013 U.S. junior title and finished fifth at the 2016 World Junior Championships, taking two years off in between to recover from a torn meniscus in his right knee and focus on school. “When he was intermediate, I was just a little preliminary admiring him. Now it feels amazing to start closing the gap.”

The U.S. will send two men to the world championships in two months, selected after Sunday’s free skate, and they likely won’t be the usual names. Neither Chen nor Zhou has been to senior worlds, and Miner’s last appearance was 2013.

The 2016 U.S. champion, Adam Rippon, is not competing this week due to a season-ending broken foot. The 2015 U.S. champion, Jason Brown, is in fourth place, 8.62 behind third-place Zhou. Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, fell twice and tumbled to 12th place Friday.

“It just wasn’t a good day,” Aaron said. “It’s not me.”

There are no more pressure-filled world championships than those one year before the Olympics, where skaters earn Olympic entries for their countries.

“That would definitely be a massive step up that I haven’t prepared for in the fullest, but it would be an absolute honor if I were to be able to go,” Zhou said. “But, for now, I’m setting more of my sights on junior worlds.”

Hopes will mostly be riding with Chen, who has a shot to become the first U.S. men’s medalist at an Olympics or worlds since Evan Lysacek took the 2010 Olympic title.

“We’re pushing back up to where we should be,” Chen said of the U.S. men. “We kind of sunk a little bit, but I think me and some of the other skaters coming up at this event will help bring the U.S. back on the map.”

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday with the pairs free skate, free dance and women’s free skate, with coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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

MORE: Ashley Wagner ‘sick’ of hearing about her age

Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen — 106.39
2. Ross Miner — 88.67
3. Vincent Zhou — 87.85
4. Jason Brown — 79.23
5. Grant Hochstein — 79.10

Maia, Alex Shibutani break U.S. Championships short dance record

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KANSAS CITY — Maia and Alex Shibutani broke the U.S. Championships short dance record held by Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White on Friday.

The defending national champion Shibutanis tallied 82.42 points at Sprint Center, easily taking down the Davis-and-White mark of 80.69 set at the 2014 U.S. Championships.

Scores have been higher this season overall, leading to records in international competitions, too.

“Didn’t know it was a record,” Maia Shibutani said. “It was our strongest performance of the short dance so far this season. That’s exactly what we want to be showing right now before we head to the second half of the season.”

The Shibutanis lead by 2.46 points over 2015 U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates going into Saturday’s free dance (3 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, three-time U.S. bronze medalists, are again third. Full results are here.

U.S. Figure Skating will send three dance couples to the world championships in two months. The Shibutanis, Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue were those three couples the past two seasons.

The U.S. is the world power in ice dance, impressively rising during Davis and White’s break since Sochi.

The Shibutanis took silver and Chock and Bates took bronze at the 2016 World Championships. Hubbell and Donohue made it three U.S. couples in the top six at worlds for the first time since 1955.

Chock and Bates had been the top U.S. couple since the Sochi Olympics up until last year’s U.S. Championships. The Shibutanis have topped Chock and Bates in their last three competitions together.

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

MORE: U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani — 82.42
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 79.96
3. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 79.72
4. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 72.60
5. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit — 67.17