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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Two Italian cities discuss possible Winter Olympic bid

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ROME (AP) — Milan and Turin are in discussions with the Italian Olympic Committee about a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino sent a letter of interest to CONI on Sunday despite divisions in her own party, the populist 5-Star Movement, on a candidacy. Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala met with CONI president Giovanni Malago on Monday.

“I think Milan has everything required but we won’t do anything without a government and its approval,” Sala said Tuesday.

Italy awaits a new government in the next few weeks following a national election this month that yielded no clear majority.

CONI is still recovering from its dropped Rome bid for the 2024 Summer Games, which ended following staunch opposition from Mayor Virginia Raggi, who also represents the 5-Star Movement.

Among the cities which have shown preliminary interest for 2026: Calgary, Canada; Sion, Switzerland; and Sapporo, Japan.

Turin hosted the Winter Games in 2006. The 2026 host will be decided by the International Olympic Committee in Milan in September 2019.

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Nathan Chen no longer grasping for gold going into world champs

Nathan Chen
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Nathan Chen is arguably a bigger favorite at this week’s world championships than going into the Olympics, but Chen learned from his frightening PyeongChang experience not to think in those terms.

“I don’t want to dwell so much on medals like I did at the Games,” Chen said last week. “That was one of the biggest things that sort of screwed me up at the Olympics. … I was so hell-bent on that, on really the gold. It ended up just making me scared. It made me really nervous and didn’t give me the confidence I needed.”

Chen arrived in PyeongChang last month undefeated for the season. His first two skates in South Korea resulted in the two worst short program scores of his senior international career.

The 18-year-old nailed his last performance, a personal-best free skate as the first man to land five clean quadruple jumps at an Olympics. The highest program score in the field by nearly nine points. Chen moved from 17th place to fifth, confirming his place among the sport’s big-stage performers.

Then two of those icons — Olympic gold and bronze medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez — withdrew from this week’s world championships in Milan.

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“Honestly, I was a little disappointed that Yuzu pulled [out of worlds],” Chen said (Hanyu cited a right ankle injury that kept him out of competition from November until the Olympics). “Obviously, he needs to get healthy. I don’t know what his future entails, but I wanted to have him there. It really ups the ante of the competition. Everyone definitely feels his presence and Javi’s presence.”

Chen spent the last week of the Olympics in Seoul with family members. He said he took maybe one day off from training after flying home to Southern California.

His coolest post-Olympic experience: attending NBA games, such as Cavaliers-Clippers with a backstage pass to watch players exit. And being shown on the jumbotron.

What Chen has not done in the last month is watch full video of his Olympic performances. Just jump compilations from his free skate. Nothing from either of the short programs.

“But I know exactly what it felt like,” he said. “I don’t really want to go back and review it since I know within myself what it felt like, but, again, if I find the need to some day go back and remember it, I think it’s a good resource.”

Chen is expected to challenge Japan’s Shoma Uno (Olympic silver medalist) and China’s Jin Boyang (2016 and 2017 World bronze medalist) for the world title.

Chen said last week that he plans two quads in his short program (Lutz and flip) and, depending on how the short goes, five in his free skate (six, which he attempted at the Olympics with one messy landing, “is pushing it a little bit.”).

Chen faces a decision after worlds. He applied to “six or seven” colleges — mostly California schools, but two on the East Coast — and, as of last week, had not heard back from any.

He plans to continue competing next season under Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutyunyan regardless of which school he chooses.

“Applications were mostly just for the purpose of trying to get into the colleges,” he said. “Once I hear back from them, I’ll figure out logistics and see how I’ll balance them both [school and skating].”

No American has won a world title since ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2013, marking the nation’s longest drought in 42 years. Chen can end it. What an end it would be to his season as well.

“It would be incredible,” Chen said, “but I still have a lot of worlds ahead of me.”

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