Jeremy Abbott

Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown named to U.S. Olympic Team

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The U.S. will send something old and something new in men’s figure skating to the Sochi Olympics.

U.S. Figure Skating finalized its 15-skater roster by naming Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown to the Olympic Team on Sunday night, a couple of hours after they went one-two at the U.S. Championships in Boston.

Abbott, 28, is the oldest male singles figure skater to make the U.S. Olympic Team since Todd Eldredge in 2002. He has never won an Olympic or World Championships medal, but Abbott now has as many U.S. titles as Olympic champions Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano and twice as many as Evan Lysacek.

“Four-time national champion is just crazy,” Abbott told reporters Sunday. “I’m just a small-town boy. I never thought I’d be here.”

Abbott infamously imploded at the 2010 Olympics, finishing ninth after beating Lysacek at the U.S. Championships a month earlier.

Brown, 19, is the first teenage male singles skater to make the U.S. Olympic Team since 1976. The ponytailed Riverdancer is in his first season as a senior-level skater after taking bronze and silver at the last two World Junior Championships.

Together, Abbott and Brown face a steep hill toward a medal in Sochi. The gold- and silver-medal favorites, in some order, are three-time reigning world champion Canadian Patrick Chan and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who beat Chan at the Grand Prix Final in December.

The door for bronze has opened this season with the struggles and injuries to Spain’s Javier Fernandez and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten. It’s also hard to gauge the ceilings of Russian three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko, if he’s selected, and Japan’s second- and third-best skaters, Tatsuki Machida and Daisuke Takahashi.

U.S. men’s skating has been on the decline since Lysacek’s gold in 2010. It hasn’t qualified to send more than two skaters to either of the last two World Championships nor for these Olympics.

The U.S. has placed a men’s singles skater sixth or higher at every Olympics since 1936. That streak is in jeopardy.

Here is the full U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team:

Men
Jeremy Abbott
Jason Brown

Women
Polina Edmunds
Gracie Gold
Ashley Wagner

Pairs
Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir
Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay

Ice Dance
Madison Chock/Evan Bates
Meryl Davis/Charlie White
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani

Meet youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1998

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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