Shani Davis

Shani Davis, Heather Richardson win bronze at Berlin World Cup

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U.S. speed skaters bagged two more medals on the penultimate day of the final World Cup before the Sochi Olympics on Saturday.

Shani Davis and Heather Richardson won bronze in the 1000m and 500m, respectively.

The Berlin World Cup concludes with a men’s 500m and 5000m and a women’s 1000m and team pursuit Sunday. It’s the final opportunity for skaters to qualify Olympic quota spots for their countries.

The four-time Olympic medalist Davis saw his three-race 1000m winning streak snapped by South Korean Mo Tae-Bum. Mo, the Olympic and world 500m champion, clocked 1 minute, 9.50 seconds. The Netherlands’ Michael Mulder was second in 1:09.52, then Davis in 1:09.59.

American Joey Mantia, who won his first World Cup race in the 1500m on Friday, followed with his best-ever 1000m result, sixth.

Davis, the two-time Olympic champion in the 1000m, had won the first three World Cup races in the distance this season. The U.S. has qualified the maximum allotment of 1000m skaters for Sochi, four, which will be determined at the U.S. Olympic Trials in three weeks.

The U.S. also qualified the maximum four in the women’s 500m. For the first time this season, South Korean Olympic champion Lee Sang-Hwa did not win. She wasn’t entered simply for rest, according to a Dutch report.

In her absence, Russian Olga Fatkulina prevailed in 37.92, which was .04 better than China’s Wang Beixing. Richardson, the reigning world sprint champion, was third in 38 seconds.

The Olympic medal picture is fairly clear after eight races this season. Lee is an overwhelming favorite. Fatkulina, Wang and Richardson are all in the medal mix, too, along with German veteran Jenny Wolf.

The U.S. looks like it will qualify three spots in the women’s 1500m following the Netherlands’ Ireen Wuest‘s victory Saturday. The three-time reigning world allround champion clocked 1:55.33, beating Poland’s Katarzyna Bachleda-Curus by a comfortable .6. Dutchwoman Lotte van Beek was third, and American Brittany Bowe was sixth.

Wuest passed Bowe as the World Cup leader in the distance after four races and looks like the Sochi gold-medal favorite.

Davis and Mantia joined Jonathan Kuck in the team pursuit and took ninth behind the winning Netherlands. The Dutch have won all three team pursuits this season. The U.S. was second in the first two team events.

Berlin World Cup

Women’s 500m — Race 2
1. Olga Fatkulina (RUS) 37.92
2. Wang Beixing (CHN) 37.96
3. Heather Richardson (USA) 38.00
16. Elli Ochowicz (USA) 38.99
19. Lauren Cholewinski (USA) 39.21

Men’s 1000m
1. Mo Tae-Bum (KOR) 1:09.50
2. Michel Mulder (NED) 1:09.52
3. Shani Davis (USA) 1:09.59
6. Joey Mantia (USA) 1:09.98
12. Jonathan Garcia (USA) 1:10.19
17. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) 1:10.44
19. Trevor Marsicano (USA) 1:10.53

Women’s 1500m
1. Ireen Wuest (NED) 1:55.33
2. Katarzyna  Bachleda-Curus (POL) 1:55.93
3. Lotte van Beek (NED) 1:56.28
6. Brittany Bowe (USA) 1:57.03
18. Jilleanne Rookard (USA) 1:59.90

Men’s Team Pursuit
1. Netherlands 3:41.46
2. South Korea 3:41.92
3. Poland 3;43.81
9. USA 3:47.67

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Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened