Bruce Jenner

Catching up with Bruce Jenner

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Nobody has done a better job of milking more out of a single performance, Bruce Jenner jokes.

Jenner won the 1976 Olympic decathlon in Montreal, retired after the Games and went on a gold medal celebrity run that’s still going strong 36 years later.

He was drafted by an NBA team, starred in made-for-TV movies and is perhaps better known now than ever due to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” on E! since 2007.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Jenner to discuss Olympic memories:

OlympicTalk: You were teammates with iconic distance runner Steve Prefontaine at your first Olympics in 1972. What was Pre like?

Jenner: He was one of my roommates at the Games in 1972. We also spent a month in Oslo, Norway, training before going to Munich, getting acclimated with the time change. So I got to know him pretty well.

I was 22 years old. I had never needed a passport before. I never expected to make it on the Olympic Team in the first place. I came out of nowhere at the trials, wasn’t even ranked in the top 10 and made it on the team in the last event [the 1500m, earning third place overall].

So I didn’t know any of these guys. I had heard of them and saw Prefontaine run, but I didn’t know the guy beforehand.

So we go to Norway, and let me tell you, those guys knew how to have a good time. I was going to bed early, and these guys were out partying. One night Pre had a little bit too much, and we like poured him into bed that night. The next morning, he got up and did the hardest workout I think I’ve ever seen in my life. I was shocked.

Him and Frank Shorter, and all these people, were having such a great time. My thinking was oh my God, they’re so happy they made it on the Olympic Team and they’re not worried enough about what’s going to happen once they get to Munich.

But then Shorter wins the marathon, and Pre had a great 5000m race even though he wound up fourth.

When I woke up on the morning of the terrorist attack, Pre was the guy who had just gone out for a morning run and told me something’s going on out there. He heard somebody got shot. He said you won’t believe what’s happened outside. He was the one that broke the news to me.

source: Getty Images
Bruce Jenner is one of 12 Americans to win the Olympic decathlon (Getty Images).

OlympicTalk: What are the overwhelming memories of winning the 1976 Olympic decathlon?

Jenner: I wasn’t shocked that I had won, because nobody had really beaten me in three years. I was the world record holder going in, so I planned on winning.

When I got to the Games, I was under this enormous amount of pressure. Not only is it the Games, it’s the last meet of my life, in front of family, friends, relatives, the bicentennial year, patriotism at its height, everybody’s got the American flag.

All that pressure, and then to go into that Olympic arena and absolutely have the best meet of my life. I added up my absolute best performance in each of the 10 events and figured it out beforehand that it was 8,678 points. I scored 8,634 in Montreal. I was about as close to perfect as you could possibly get.

It was a bittersweet moment. I was very happy to win, but also very sad because I was walking away that day, too. I was at the top of my game, 26 years old, best in the world at what I do, and I’ve got to walk away. I cried when it was over with. I thought, God, I don’t even have to work out tomorrow. What do I do?

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OlympicTalk: The Olympic decathlon champion is dubbed the world’s greatest athlete. Who is the greatest athlete of all time?

Jenner: If you’ve seen my golf swing, you know it’s not me. I have to go with the current guy, Ashton Eaton [2012 Olympic decathlon champion and world record holder]. He’s doing things right now that are just unbelievable.

I’ve always said the next great one in the decathlon is a guy who’s going to have really good [100m] speed and still be able to run the 1500m. Every sprinter dies in the 1500m [the last decathlon event].

At the trials in 2012, Ashton Eaton went out there and ran a 10.2 100m, breaking the decathlon world record in the 100m, and came back with a 4:14 1500m. That is by far the best double I’ve ever seen in the decathlon.

He’s going to get 9,200, 9,300 points before he’s done. [Eaton’s current world record is 9,039 points.] He’s just a phenomenal athlete. His throws are coming around better and better, and those are the easy ones to learn. There’s no limit for him.

There are great athletes out there, the Michael Jordans of the world, but the decathlon is the only standardized test over history of a person’s ability to run, jump and throw. Those are the basics of athletics.

OlympicTalk: What was the coolest experience after winning Olympic gold?

Jenner: Being asked to be on the Wheaties box. I also never thought in a million years I would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so that was very cool. But it was even harder to be on the Wheaties box

OlympicTalk: What’s your favorite souvenir from 1976 other than your gold medal?

Jenner: I have a picture of me, in black and white, standing behind the blocks of the 400m in Montreal, getting ready to run. I remember being there and the intensity of the moment. I was ready to kill somebody if they got in my lane. This was the last 400m of my life. I wanted to run 47.5 [he ran 47.51]. I’m going to run the hardest I’ve ever run in my life.

That was by far my favorite picture, and it’s the only picture I have in my house of anything from the Games.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani beaten in free dance, still repeat as U.S. champions

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KANSAS CITY — Maia and Alex Shibutani were not the best U.S. ice dancers on Saturday, for the first time in a year. Still, they held on to repeat as U.S. champions.

The siblings were outscored in the U.S. Championships free dance by Madison Chock and Evan Bates, but their lead from a record-breaking short dance was enough to win by 1.01 points at Sprint Center. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were third after Hubbell shockingly fell during their free dance.

The top three repeated from 2016. Full results are here.

The Shibutanis took a 2.46-point lead into the free dance and totaled 200.05 points overall. They missed the U.S. Championships overall record score, set by Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, by .14 of a point, after breaking Davis and White’s short dance record Friday.

“A year out from the Olympics, this is exactly where we want to be,” Maia Shibutani told Andrea Joyce on NBC. “I know we’ve improved so much.”

Chock and Bates, the 2015 U.S. champions, outscored the Shibutanis in a program on Saturday for the first time since the 2016 U.S. Championships short dance.

It was at last year’s nationals that the Shibutanis displaced Chock and Bates as the U.S. power couple in dance. The siblings went on to better Chock and Bates in both programs at the Four Continents Championships, World Championships and the Grand Prix Final in December.

“A lot of times we get hung up on results, and it doesn’t really, truly reflect how our skating has grown and how our partnership has evolved,” Bates said. “I think this was our best competition, probably, to date. … We would have loved to recapture our national title, but it didn’t happen for us.”

Hubbell and Donohue had been rising until Hubbell hit the ice Saturday. They were sixth at the 2016 World Championships and then fifth at the Grand Prix Final in December, finishing ahead of Chock and Bates.

They leave Kansas City with a fourth U.S. Championships bronze medal. They’ve never cracked the top two.

“It wasn’t our day, my day in particular,” said Hubbell, before getting a peck on the cheek from Donohue. “Just a funny, fluke moment. I just want to say thanks to Zach for being a really fabulous partner. … I thank my lucky stars to have a partner that can help me through a moment like that.”

The Shibutanis earned their first U.S. title in 2016, then took silver at the world championships last March and bronze at the Grand Prix Final last month. Despite the free dance scores, they are confident going into worlds in two months.

“The past year and a half, we’ve built so much momentum,” Alex Shibutani said. “We’re really coming into our own.”

The world’s two best couples are two-time reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France and Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Virtue and Moir took Olympic gold in 2010 and silver in 2014, then took two seasons off and returned this year to post the highest scores under the current system implemented in 2010.

The U.S., though, is unquestionably the deepest ice dance nation. The Shibutanis, Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue made up half of the top six at the 2016 World Championships. All three couples qualified for each of the last two Grand Prix Finals, which take only six couples.

Meanwhile, Davis and White have watched the ascension while taking a three-year break from competition. They are running out of time to decide if they will attempt to defend their Olympic title in PyeongChang. A nation can send no more than three couples to the Olympics.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Ice Dance
GOLD: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani — 200.05

SILVER: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 199.04
BRONZE: Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 191.42
4. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit — 170.29
5. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 160.06

Haven Denney, Brandon Frazier win U.S. pairs title after year off

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KANSAS CITY — Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier returned from a year off to win their first U.S. pairs title on Saturday, despite an error-prone free skate and against a field lacking any previous U.S. champion teams.

Denney and Frazier jumped from second after the short program to total 188.32 points and win by 2.04 over Sochi Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. Denney and Frazier’s total score was 23.33 points fewer than last year’s winning score.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, who led by 3.96 after the short program, had a strong free skate going until a fall on their throw triple Lutz and finished third Saturday.

Full results are here.

Denney and Frazier were the top U.S. pair in the fall international season by 16 points, taking a silver medal at Skate America.

But Denney struggled on landings in the short program, her right leg wrapped after blowing out her right knee in spring 2015 that caused them to miss the entire 2015-16 season. They also had multiple jumping errors in their free skate, but, unlike the rest of the top five, stayed on their feet Saturday.

“We’re trying harder elements, harder jumps, bigger throws, bigger twists,” Frazier said. “What you see is a couple of ups and downs. This is all building for the next season.”

The U.S. will send two pairs to the world championships in Helsinki in two months, but not definitively the top two finishers from Saturday. The world championships pairs teams will be named Sunday.

Denney and Frazier finished 12th at the 2015 Worlds, after placing second at that year’s U.S. Championships. Castelli and Tran, in their second year as a pair, have no worlds experience together and are ineligible for the 2018 Olympics. Tran, born in Canada, is not a U.S. citizen.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. pair to earn an Olympic or world medal was Kyoka Ina and John Zimmerman at the 2002 Worlds. Eight different pairs have won the last nine U.S. titles.

In 2016, the U.S. pairs finished ninth and 13th at worlds, but both of those teams are out due to injuries.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition in recent seasons, has been out of competition all season due to her September stomach surgery. They have returned to full training.

The Knierims filed a petition to be named to the world championships team, which is selected on a discretionary basis on results from the U.S. Championships and other recent competitions.

“Whatever they decide,” Tran said of a U.S. Figure Skating selection committee, “we’re all for that.”

The 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea withdrew before the free skate Saturday after Kayne suffered a concussion in a short-program fall. They placed fifth in the short program.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Pairs
GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier — 188.32
SILVER: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran — 186.28
BRONZE: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc — 184.41

4. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay — 173.50
5. Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan — 168.90