Sam Mikulak

Sam Mikulak, Elizabeth Price win American Cup (video)

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Sam Mikulak wants another shot at the World Championships and Olympics. Elizabeth Price eyes her first trip to either.

Mikulak and Price took early steps to both major competitions by topping international fields at the American Cup in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday.

Mikulak overtook Japan’s Shogo Nonomura in the final rotation after Nonomura fell on high bar. Mikulak, the reigning U.S. all-around champion, won his first American Cup with 90.098 points.

Nonomura finished 1.133 behind. Another American, John Orozco, was fifth.

“Final rotation was intense,” Mikulak said on NBC. “There was a lot of nerves going in. Big crowd. Big stadium. I just wanted to go out there and hit my routine, no falls, and then let the pressure sink in on the other competitors. It worked out in my favor.”

Price cruised with 59.966, bettering fellow American Brenna Dowell by a comfortable 2.434. She also won her first American Cup.

“To add this title to a list of many, it’s pretty cool,” Price said. “I hope to keep making the list bigger and bigger.”

Mikulak was the least experienced member of the 2012 U.S. men’s Olympic team that finished a disappointing fifth in London. The 21-year-old Michigan senior came back in 2013 to win his first U.S. all-around title.

But Mikulak won zero medals at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, where he finished sixth in the all-around after being second to Japanese legend Kohei Uchimura in qualifying.

Mikulak remained the best American man by topping Orozco in Greensboro.

“To be able to win another American title outside of the NCAA season, it just feels spectacular,” Mikulak said. “I’m excited for what else is to come.”

Orozco, also 21, won the 2012 U.S. all-around title going into the Olympics, but he did not bring back any medals from London. He suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in October 2012 and came back to win world bronze on parallel bars in Antwerp.

Mikulak and Orozco could face competition from Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva and two-time Olympian Jonathan Horton at the U.S. Championships in Pittsburgh from Aug. 21-24.

Leyva, 22, needs to improve upon results from last year’s U.S. Championships (seventh overall) and last month’s Winter Cup (ninth overall) if he’s to be an international medal threat again.

Horton, 28, had shoulder surgery in early 2013 and missed the entire season. He petitioned onto the National Team for 2014 though, a strong indicator of his intention to compete again.

This year’s World Championships, in October in Nanning, China, will include a team competition, unlike in 2013. The U.S. men should vie for medals with powerhouses Japan and China.

Price, 17, notched her biggest victory on U.S. soil at the American Cup. The alternate for the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships is a threat for medals at this year’s U.S. Championships and World Championships should she stay healthy.

“Being so close to the Olympic team back in 2012 definitely made me like really hungry for more meets,” Price said. “Hopefully I can soon say that I’ve won even bigger meets than this one.”

Dowell, also 17, made the 2013 World Championships team after taking third in the all-around at the U.S. Championships. She did not compete in Antwerp, however. Instead, the U.S. opted to enter Simone BilesKyla Ross and McKayla Maroney in all-around qualifying.

So Price and Dowell go into the major spring, summer and fall events with something to prove. The next big meet is the Pacific Rim Championships at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond, B.C., from April 9-12.

The women-only U.S. Classic just outside Chicago is Aug. 2.

Biles and Ross, the world all-around gold and silver medalists, missed the American Cup with injuries. Maroney is trying to bolster her all-around prospects after winning a world title on vault last year.

That’s not to mention the expected return of triple Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, perhaps at the U.S. Classic. Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber have said they’ve returned to training, but it’s unknown when they will compete again.

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How to watch U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 02: Ashley Wagner of the United States warms up before the Ladies Free Skate program on Day 6 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 at TD Garden on April 2, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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U.S. Figure Skating Championships coverage continues Saturday, live on NBC and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, starting at 3 p.m. ET.

The pairs free skate, free dance and women’s free skate are scheduled in Kansas City.

The NBC Sports All-Access page will provide live scoring and more all week.

Pairs free skate, free dance
3-6 p.m. ET
STREAM LINK | PAIRS SKATE ORDER | DANCE SKATE ORDER

Women’s free skate
8-11 p.m. ET
STREAM LINKSKATE ORDER

In pairs, the first-year team of Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc leads Skate America silver medalists Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier by 3.96 points going into the free skate.

In dance, world silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani hold a 2.46-point lead over world bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates after breaking the U.S. Championships short dance record.

Karen Chen, 17, is the surprise women’s leader after the short program. Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner is third, and defending champion Gracie Gold is fifth. Wagner and Gold might not be able to afford mistakes in the free skate if they want to make the world championships team.

The U.S. will send two pairs, three dance couples and three women to worlds in Helsinki in two months. The team selections made this weekend will be based largely — but not wholly — off U.S. Championships results.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang

Lindsey Vonn wins, cries in second race back from broken bones

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Lindsey Vonn was in tears. It’s easy to see why.

In her second race back after the most painful injury of her career, Vonn notched her 77th career World Cup victory, taking a downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday morning.

Vonn screamed repeatedly after crossing the finish line and seeing she was .15 ahead of Swiss Lara Gut. She cried and then waited as skier after skier tried to beat her time. No one did. Full results are here.

Vonn called it the most emotional victory of those 77, according to the Austria Press Agency.

“I feel like, sometimes, I come back so quickly, everyone forgets how much time and energy and blood, sweat and tears it takes to come back without any training and jump in there,” Vonn said, adding to the BBC, “I just put it all on the line. I tried to risk more. I tried to really believe in myself. I did more than I expected.”

This month marked Vonn’s full return from two injuries — suffering three large fractures in her left knee in a Feb. 27 race crash and breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Vonn has said the latter was the most painful injury of her career, causing nerve damage that limited mobility of her right hand.

Vonn’s first race back was last Sunday — after less than two weeks of ski training — and she finished 13th in a downhill in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. Her lack of training showed. A lack of aggressiveness and speed in turns.

“I honestly wasn’t sure after Zauchensee how long it would take me [to win],” she said. “I definitely struggled finding that confidence, but I did it today. I tried to have as much courage as I could and push myself to the limit. I think I still can ski a lot better, but I think this is more in the direction of what I used to do. So I’m getting back.”

Vonn has two primary goals left in her decorated career — to ski for gold in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic downhill and to break the World Cup wins record of 86 held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

Vonn can go for win No. 78 in a super-G in Garmisch on Sunday, streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 6 a.m. ET.

If Vonn stays healthy and continues to win at her normal pace, two big “ifs,” she will break Stenmark’s record next season.

“I still don’t have much training, so, super-G, I really don’t know what to expect,” Vonn said.

MORE: Vonn sets date on proposal to enter men’s race