Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Meryl Davis, Charlie White eye Olympic gold after record U.S. title

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Meryl Davis and Charlie White took care of business in Boston. The next goal is to make American history in Sochi.

Davis and White, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, won their record-breaking sixth straight U.S. Championship in ice dancing on Saturday.

In a class of their own, they padded a lead built from the short dance Friday and won with 200.19 total points and by a comfortable margin of 18.75.

They received a standing ovation at TD Garden in Boston after performing a “Scheherazade” free dance, received a perfect 60-point component score and became the first couple to break 200 points at a U.S. Championships since ice dance dropped from three programs to two in 2011.

Can they put their performance in perspective?

“It’s really hard right now,” White said on NBC. “We’re so proud of everything we’ve accomplished, and it meant so much to be able to come in here, take that title and head into the Olympics with it.”

Davis and White can turn their focus to the Olympics, where they are favored to become the first U.S. couple to win gold in ice dance.

“We’re working to earn gold,” Davis said on NBC. “We’re working really hard for it.”

They’ll lead a U.S. Olympic Team of three couples that appears cut and dry, as opposed to the drama-filled pairs. The official team that is based largely but not solely off U.S. Championships results will be announced Sunday around noon ET.

The top three couples from the short dance Friday remained the same after the free dance. Madison Chock and 2010 Olympian Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani followed Davis and White.

Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis were also second and third at the 2013 U.S. Championships and were the top U.S. couples behind Davis and White during the Grand Prix season.

Chock, Bates, the Shibutanis and nearly the rest of the world appear to be fighting for bronze in Sochi.

Davis and White, who haven’t lost in nearly two years, are thought to be challenged by one couple — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who happen to be their training partners in Canton, Mich.

Virtue and Moir are the only couple to relegate Davis and White to silver in the last four years — at the 2010 Olympics, 2010 World Championships, 2012 World Championships and 2012 Four Continents Championships.

Virtue and Moir are competing in the Canadian Championships this weekend, where they scored 76.16 points in the short dance Friday and were to perform their free dance later Saturday.

Comparing results from nationals competitions isn’t an exact science, but Davis and White scored 80.69 in the short dance in Boston on Friday.

The other top U.S. ice dancers bring international experience.

Bates finished 11th at the 2010 Olympics with partner Emily Samuelson, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in September 2010 and changed partners to Chock in summer 2011.

The Shibutanis, who have skated together for 10 years, are set to make their first U.S. Olympic Team after their strong performance to a Michael Jackson medley Saturday.

The affectionately known ShibSibs are the 2011 world bronze medalists and haven’t finished lower than third in their four senior-level U.S. Championships appearances.

“What we’re really proud of is the way we skated today and handled this whole week,” Maia Shibutani told reporters. “So if we were to be on the team it would be an absolute dream come true.”

Ice Dance Results
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White — 200.19
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 181.44
3. Alex Shibutani/Maia Shibutani — 170.44
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 168.27

U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN