Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski

Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski preview Skate America

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The post-Olympic figure skating season begins in earnest this weekend at Skate America, the first of seven events in the Grand Prix series.

Here’s a look at the men’s and women’s fields in Hoffman Estates, Ill., with analysis from NBC Olympic figure skating analysts Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. (NBC will have live coverage of the women’s free skate Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET)

Men (short program — Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET; free skate — Saturday, 9:40 p.m.)

Both U.S. Sochi Olympians are in the field — Jason Brown and Jeremy Abbott, who were ninth and 12th at the Olympics, respectively.

Brown, 19, made his Grand Prix debut at Skate America last year and finished fifth, filling in for 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek.

Brown, the youngest U.S. Olympic men’s singles skater since 1976, won his first senior international title at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in his season debut in September. He did so without a quadruple jump, which he hopes to add to his arsenal once he’s more comfortable with it.

Weir said the quad is important for Brown to grab the reins as a leading man as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics approach. Lipinski echoed how vital the four-revolution jump is.

“I feel among the judges no one has really taken [Brown] that seriously as a technical threat to other skaters, because the quad is what everyone is looking for,” Lipinski said.

Abbott, who is 10 years older than Brown, planned to retire after the 2013-14 season but felt reinvigorated after finishing fifth at the World Championships in March. The four-time U.S. champion is back for another season, in part, to try to win his first World Championships medal in March.

“I find it very endearing and charming just the way that he’s looking at the rest of his career,” Lipinski said. “He just really wants to do it for himself. I wonder how that will change his performance and how he changes as a competitor with a new outlook.”

Brown and Abbott’s biggest competition at Skate America will come from Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan and Japan’s Tatsuki Machida, who won Skate America last year, finished second at the World Championships and fifth at the Olympics.

“My personal favorite of the field is Machida,” Weir said of the 24-year-old. “He is so strong technically. He’s growing as an artist. He really does something interesting every time he’s on the ice.”

Jeremy Abbott, rebuilt and motivated, begins 10th season

Women (short program — Saturday, 2:30 p.m.; free skate — Sunday, 4 p.m.)

U.S. champion Gracie Gold seeks her first senior international title and a better performance than her third-place effort at Nebelhorn last month. Gold was fourth at the Olympics and fifth at the World Championships, better results than anybody else in this weekend’s Skate America field.

“I know [Gold] had sort of a rough offseason this summer, maybe some growing pains, and just troubles with her consistency,” Lipinski said. “But obviously she is the top American to beat. And coming into this event of Skate America there’s no reason she shouldn’t walk away with the gold.”

The other Americans are 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Samantha Cesario, who was fifth at the 2014 U.S. Championships. But Gold’s biggest threat appears to be Russian Elena Radionova, the two-time reigning World junior champion who was third at Skate America as a 14-year-old last year.

Radionova was too young to compete in Sochi, but she took part in the post-competition exhibition gala. That’s where Lipinski saw her skate live for the first time and nudged Weir, saying this would be the woman to watch moving forward.

“We say that every year there’s a new little Russian, but this one is really, really good,” Lipinski said. “She has this fire, and she’s consistent. And it’s going to be hard, obviously, as she grows into her body. She’s very limby. She has this little deer look with she’s out on the ice.”

Gracie Gold calls audible, adds lyrics for post-Olympic season

The pairs field includes Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the only U.S. pair competing this season with Olympics or World Championships experience, and Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Aleksander Smirnov, who were fourth at the 2010 Olympics.

The ice dance field includes Sochi Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the top U.S. couples with Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White taking the season off.

NBC figure skating broadcast schedule

Watch Simone Biles, Nancy Kerrigan cha-cha on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Simone Biles made a rare misstep, but her performance on “Dancing with the Stars” was still plenty strong enough to survive the first elimination Monday.

The four-time Olympic champion gymnast got a step ahead of partner Sasha Farber on their cha-cha on the season’s second episode, leading to a lower score this week (29 out of 40) than the first week (32 out of 40).

“What you did was nice, just not together,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said.

“I don’t know if I necessarily felt it, but what I saw was beautiful,” added another judge, Julianne Hough.

Biles and Farber’s score tied for the fourth-highest of the 12 couples, after posting the highest score the previous Monday. Biles is trying to join Shawn Johnson and Laurie Hernandez as gymnasts to win the Mirrorball Trophy.

Meanwhile, two-time Olympic medalist figure skater Nancy Kerrigan scored 28 points with partner Artem Chigvintsev for a second straight week. They also advanced.

Judge Len Goodman said Kerrigan “lost a bit of control here and there.”

“I think the thing that got to you was your nerves,” Inaba said. “In your first half of your routine you were a little bit off your step. … As the dance progressed, I saw you find yourself.”

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U.S. senators speak up as women’s hockey worlds near with no resolution

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sixteen U.S. senators wrote a letter to USA Hockey’s executive director Monday over their concerns about the treatment of the women’s national team.

Players have threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships over a wage dispute. The senators, all Democrats, urged David Ogrean to resolve the matter and ensure the team receives “equitable resources.” They cited the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

USA Hockey’s board of directors meets Monday, and players said Sunday night they hope there’s a deal.

The senators, all Democrats, joined a chorus of support that includes unions representing players from the NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. Those organizations said over the weekend they stood with the women’s team and criticized USA Hockey for attempting to find replacement players.

Prominent NHL agent Allan Walsh tweeted Sunday, “Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men’s World Championships in solidarity with the women.”

Zach Bogosian, an American-born Buffalo Sabres defenseman, went to high school with U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. He tweeted his support and said he hopes the dispute is resolved.

The U.S. is the defending champion at the International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which begins Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

In negotiations over the past 15 months, players have asked for a four-year contract that pays them outside the six-month Olympic period. The senators’ letter notes the $6,000 that players earn around the Olympics and USA Hockey’s $3.5 million annual spending on the men’s national team development program and other discrepancies.

“These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics,” the senators wrote.

In a statement Sunday night, players said they hoped USA Hockey would approve terms discussed during a meeting last week. They said the agreement has the “potential to be a game changer for everyone.”

The letter was signed by: Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

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