Gracie Gold

World Figure Skating Championships schedule

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The U.S. is sending 15 skaters to the World Championships this week, but the key number is 13.

In all four disciplines — men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance — the top two American finishers’ results will be combined for a number that will determine how many spots the U.S. receives for next year’s World Championships.

If that number is 13 or fewer, the U.S. gets three spots in that discipline. Like in 2013, when Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold finished fifth and sixth (a combined 11th) to earn the U.S. three women’s spots not only at the Olympics, but also at this week’s World Championships in Saitama, Japan.

Wagner and Gold headline the U.S. team this week. They’re joined by Polina Edmunds, making the women’s roster the same as it was in Sochi, where Gold was fourth, Wagner seventh and Edmunds ninth.

The rest of the U.S. team is Jeremy Abbott and Max Aaron, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay and ice dancers Maia and Alex ShibutaniMadison Chock and Evan Bates and Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton.

The fields are missing the Olympic women’s, pairs and ice dance gold medalists, plus every 2013 world champion, creating an opportunity for new stars to emerge.

Previews: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Here’s the schedule of events in Saitama (all times Eastern):

Tuesday: Pairs short program (9 p.m.)
Wednesday: Men’s short program (3 a.m.)
Wednesday: Pairs free skate (10:30 p.m.)
Thursday: Women’s short program (2:55 a.m.)
Thursday: Short dance (9:50 p.m.)
Friday: Men’s free skate (4 a.m.)
Friday: Free dance (11:30 p.m.)
Saturday: Women’s free skate (4:15 a.m.)

Icenetwork.com will provide live online coverage to its Season Pass subscribers.

Universal Sports Network will broadcast same-day coverage from Wednesday-Saturday from 1-3 p.m. ET each day. 2011 U.S. champion Ryan Bradley and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Tanith Belbin will be analysts alongside play-by-play voice Steve Schlanger.

NBC will air a World Championships recap show April 13 from 3-6 p.m. ET.

Russian Olympic champions out of worlds

45-year-old speed skater eyes record 7th Olympics

AP
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When German speed skater Claudia Pechstein debuted at the Winter Olympics in 1992, she won a bronze medal in the 5000m in 7 minutes, 39.80 seconds.

On Sunday, Pechstein won a World Cup 5000m in 6:56.60, a track record in Stavanger, Norway.

Pechstein, now 45 years old, notched her first World Cup victory in three years.

“It’s unbelievable to be on top at my age,” she said, according to the International Skating Union. “Some of the other athletes could be my daughters.”

She extended her record as the oldest skater to win a World Cup race (the second-oldest was barely 38 years old at the time, according to SchaatsStatistieken.nl).

And come February, it looks like she’ll be the first woman to compete in seven Winter Olympics (she has not ruled out a bid for 2022, either).

She can become the oldest Winter Olympic medalist in an individual event and the first person to win the same individual Winter Olympic event four times (she won the 5000m in 1994, 1998 and 2002).

Four women have competed in eight Summer Olympics. Pechstein currently shares the record of six Winter Games appearances by a woman with two others, according to Olympic historians.

The overall record of seven appearances is shared by Russian luger Albert Demtschenko and Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai. Demtschenko retired after Sochi, while the 45-year-old Kasai looks likely for an eighth Olympics after placing 15th in last season’s World Cup standings.

Pechstein owns nine Olympic medals, one shy of the female Winter Games record shared by cross-country skiers Marit Bjoergen of Norway, Raisa Smetanina of Russia and Stefania Belmondo of Italy.

The latter two are retired, but the 37-year-old Bjoergen was the world’s best skier last season after taking time off to have a baby.

Bjoergen is likely to add multiple medals in PyeongChang, perhaps challenging countryman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen‘s Winter Olympic record 13 medals (Bjoerndalen is also still active, complicating matters).

Back to Pechstein.

She is perhaps best known for missing the 2010 Olympics due to a two-year blood doping ban (not for failing a test, but for irregular biological passport levels). She has denied doping and fought the ban in courts for several years after it ended in 2011.

Her path to 5000m gold in PyeongChang would almost surely have to go through Czech Martina Sablikova, who has won the last 11 Olympic or world titles.

Sablikova was third in Sunday’s race, reportedly hampered by a back injury. She relegated Pechstein to silver at last season’s world championships by 1.55 seconds at the PyeongChang Olympic venue.

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Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks win USATF Athlete of the Year awards

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks
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Emma Coburn and Sam Kendricks followed Rio Olympic bronze medals with their first world titles in August. And now, they both won USATF Athlete of the Year honors.

Coburn, 27, took the female award named after Jackie Joyner-Kersee after becoming the first American woman to bag 3000m steeplechase gold at the Olympics or worlds.

Coburn led an emotional U.S. one-two with Courtney Frerichs in London on Aug. 11 (video here). She broke the American record (by five seconds) and the world championships record by winning in 9:02.58.

Kendricks, 25, captured the Jesse Owens Award after an undefeated season that included the first Olympic or world pole vault title by an American man in 10 years.

The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve won all 17 of his competitions in 2017, clearing six meters for the first time. No American had eclipsed that barrier since 2008.

Coburn and Kendricks won the USATF honors over the likes of fellow world champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie (100m), Christian Taylor (triple jump), Phyllis Francis (400m), Kori Carter (400m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (long jump). Plus Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp, who each won World Marathon Majors this fall.

Rio gold medalists Michelle Carter (shot put) and Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) won the awards last year.

Coburn is the first steeplechaser to take home a USATF Athlete of the Year award. They’ve been handed out since 1981.

Kendricks joined 2000 Olympic champion Stacy Dragila as the only pole vaulters to earn the honor.

More from USATF on the awards here.

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