Jamie Greubel, Lolo Jones

U.S. Bobsled announces pairings for Lake Placid World Cup

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The U.S. women’s bobsled team, fresh off unprecedented success at last week’s World Cup stop, made more changes to its lineup going into this weekend’s races in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The U.S. went 1-2-2 in Park City, Utah, on Saturday.

It marked the first time the U.S. swept a women’s bobsled podium since 2001, the season before its Olympic debut, and the first time it had ever gone 1-2-2.

The lineup last Saturday was:

Elana Meyers-Aja Evans
Jamie Greubel-Lolo Jones
Jazmine Fenlator-Lauryn Williams

U.S. Bobsled made changes to each pairing as it tinkers with lineups to see who best meshes in advance of selecting Olympic push athletes in mid-January. A push athlete’s inclusion or absence does not necessarily reflect on her likelihood of making the U.S. Olympic Team.

Here are the pairings for this Saturday’s event in Lake Placid:

Elana Meyers-Lauryn Williams
Jamie Greubel-Aja Evans
Jazmine Fenlator-Emily Azevedo

Meyers, the overall World Cup leader, is not paired with push athlete Evans for the first time since last season’s World Championships.

Meyers and Evans had won two of three races so far this season and finished second in the other. It would be surprising not to see them paired together in Sochi.

Williams’ pairing with Meyers is a testament to her rise in her rookie season after coming over from track and field. Williams is a three-time Olympian and the 2004 Olympic 100m silver medalist.

She won a silver medal in her World Cup debut last week and appears to be entering the mix with Azevedo and Lolo Jones in the battle for the third Olympic team spot behind Evans and Katie Eberling.

Eberling and Jones are sitting out Saturday’s race. For both, it’s the second absence in four races this season. Evans is the only push athlete who has been in all four World Cup races.

Universal Sports will have coverage of this weekend’s bobsled and skeleton races. Here’s the race schedule for Lake Placid (all times Eastern):

Friday
Two-man bobsled heat 1 — 8:30 a.m.
Two-man bobsled heat 2 — 10 a.m.
Women’s skeleton heat 1 — 12 p.m.
Men’s skeleton heat 1 — 1 p.m.
Women’s skeleton heat 2 — 2:15 p.m.
Men’s skeleton heat 2 — 3:15 p.m.

Saturday
Two-man bobsled heat 1 — 8:30 a.m.
Two-man bobsled heat 2 — 10 a.m.
Women’s bobsled heat 1 — 1 p.m.
Women’s bobsled heat 2 — 2:30 p.m.

Sunday
Women’s skeleton heat 1 — 9 a.m.
Women’s skeleton heat 2 — 10:30 a.m.
Four-man bobsled heat 1 — 1 p.m.
Four-man bobsled heat 2 — 2:30 p.m.

Lindsey Vonn to skip St. Moritz, ski Val d’Isere downhill

Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

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World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

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Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

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The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

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