Six months since Sochi: U.S. figure skaters

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Since coming home from Sochi, Olympic figure skaters have kept pretty busy. Take a look at what the Americans have been up to.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

The ice dancing gold medalists seem to be everywhere. Together, they were named grand marshals of the 88th America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit. The duo will also be grand marshals at NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.

Davis competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and won with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. White finished fifth with partner Sharna Burgess.

White proposed to girlfriend and Olympic silver medalist Tanith Belbin in Hawaii.

Couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting for the best time in our life! Hashtag she said yes!!!

A post shared by Charlie White (@charlieawhite) on

Though the ice dancing team hasn’t officially retired, they are sitting out the upcoming season.

Women

Gracie Gold, fourth in Sochi, said she’s taking baby steps getting ready for the new season. She toured in Japan and attended a few Hollywood parties, such as the “Divergent” movie premiere.

Ashley Wagner, seventh in Sochi and at Worlds, is scheduled to open her Grand Prix season at Skate Canada in two months, followed by Trophée Éric Bompard in Bordeaux, France (full Grand Prix assignments here).

Polina Edmunds, the youngest of the Americans at 16, will also skate in the Grand Prix season. She participated in the July 4 Rose, White and Blue Parade in her hometown of San Jose, Calif.

Men

Jeremy Abbott‘s decision not to retire after Sochi paid off. He finished fifth at the World Championships in March, helping earn three men’s spots for the U.S. at the 2015 World Championships.

He’s not done with the sport – he wants to leave an impact in some way – but doesn’t know how long he will continue. He is entered in Skate America and NHK Trophy in Japan next season.

Jason Brown, whose “Riverdance” free skate captivated audiences, will return to Skate America and is slated for the Moscow stop in the Grand Prix season.

Ice Dancing

Maia and Alex Shibutani have been on tour in Japan, uploading their trademark “ShibSibs” videos of their travels. They placed ninth in Sochi and sixth at the World Championships in March, one spot behind another U.S. couple, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, at both competitions.

Pairs

Even though Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay split since Sochi, Zhang threw out a ceremonial first pitch from Bartholomay’s shoulders at a Tampa Bay Rays-Milwaukee Brewers game July 28 (video here).

Zhang has since retired and plans on attending the University of South Florida. Bartholomay has teamed with Gretchen Donlan.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir also split and found new partners. For Castelli, it’s Canadian Mervin Tran, who has sought release from Skate Canada.

“I’m American all the way,” Castelli said to Icenetwork, when asked if she would consider representing Canada.

Tran joked that the six-hour commute from Boston to Montreal is good bonding time, as the pair will train in both locations.

Shnapir will stay in Boston with DeeDee Leng, 20, who split with partner Timothy LeDuc in the spring. From day one, the new pair said the goal will be Pyeongchang 2018.

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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