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17 Olympic sports events to watch in 2017

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There are no Olympics in odd-numbered years, but a large majority of major sports will hold world championships in 2017. Plus, there’s that key date of Sept. 13 that could impact the Olympic movement for many years to come.

A look at 17 Olympic sports events to watch in 2017:

1. World Luge Championships
Innsbruck, Austria, Jan. 26-29

Germany swept the gold medals in Olympic events again at the 2016 World Championships, but U.S. sliders continue to gain ground. Erin Hamlin won the first U.S. Olympic singles medal in Sochi and has since been part of a group of sliders to make World Cup podiums, including Emily Sweeney, Summer Britcher, Chris Mazdzer, Tucker West and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman.

2. Winter X Games
Aspen, Colo., Jan. 26-29

The world’s best winter action sports stars will jostle for Olympic favorite status at their biggest annual gathering. The event could include Chloe Kim, a 16-year-old who won the last two women’s snowboard halfpipe titles, and Shaun White, who was controversially missing from last year’s X Games for the second time this millennium. Other potential PyeongChang stars with X Games experience include freeskiers Maddie BowmanGus Kenworthy and Kelly Sildaru and snowboarders Jamie Anderson, Sage Kotsenburg and Mark McMorris.

3. World Alpine Skiing Championships
St. Moritz, Switzerland, Feb. 6-19

In 2015, the World Alpine Skiing Championships brought together the greatest collection of U.S. Alpine talent in history. Those skiers since went very separate ways. Mikaela Shiffrin is the only U.S. Olympic medalist with a World Cup podium finish this season, and she has seven of them (with six wins). Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety have all missed substantial time in the last two years due to injuries. And Bode Miller will not be racing in St. Moritz, but he’s not quite done yet.

VIDEO: Vonn details most painful injury of career

4. World Biathlon Championships
Hochfilzen, Austria, Feb. 6-19

The recent Russian doping problems have impacted biathlon more than most sports, but the stars to watch remain the same. France’s Martin Fourcade was 2.8 seconds shy of sweeping the four individual events at 2016 Worlds. Motivated, he’s already won seven of the first eight World Cup events this season. Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, owner of a record 13 Winter Olympic medals, continues to contend at age 42. He earned four medals at 2016 Worlds and ranks fourth in this season’s overall standings. He’s married to Belarus’ Darya Domracheva, a three-time 2014 Olympic champion who is competing in January for the first time since March 2015 after a break due to mononucleosis and childbirth.

5. World Single Distance Championships
Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 9-12

The 2018 Olympic venue will host speed skating’s biggest competition of the year. The U.S. team memorably flopped in Sochi, but only the Netherlands has earned more medals at the last two world championships combined. Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma lead the U.S. charge, while Shani Davis gears up for one more Olympic run.

6. World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships
Koenigssee, Germany, Feb. 13-26

This event was originally awarded to Sochi, but the recent reports of Russian doping violations (and boycott threats) saw them stripped and handed to the world’s sliding sports power in Germany. The U.S. has medal threats in every event. The biggest story in the sport may be the rise of South Korea, which boasts World Cup winners in two-man bobsled and men’s skeleton, though the South Koreans aren’t focused on Koenigssee but PyeongChang.

MORE: Olympic skeleton champion suspended

7. World Nordic Skiing Championships
Lahti, Finland, Feb. 22-March 5

World champions will be crowned in cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. Eyes could be on Norwegian champion skiers who have dealt with different challenges since Sochi — Petter Northug (jail sentence), Marit Bjoergen (pregnancy) and Therese Johaug (suspension) — provided they make it to Lahti.

8. World Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard Championships
Sierra Nevada, Spain, March 7-19

This will award more medals in Winter Olympic sports events than any other global competition in 2017. Though some top snowboarders and freeskiers are usually absent, the aerials and moguls results in particular will be telling for PyeongChang medal predictions. In 2018, the U.S. could be in line to earn more Olympic medals in aerials than moguls for the first time since 1998.

9. World Short Track Championships
Rotterdam, Netherlands, March 10-12

Short track is a national sport in South Korea, so it will be among the hottest tickets at the PyeongChang Winter Games. The world championships will provide a glimpse into where the Olympic host nation’s athletes stand relative to the rest of the world. If Olympic medals were awarded based on current World Cup standings, five different South Koreans would make individual podiums across the six events.

10. World Figure Skating Championships
Helsinki, March 29-April 2

The competition will determine how many spots each nation earns in each discipline at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. men and women will be under scrutiny to grab the maximum three Olympic berths. To do that, the two best American results per event must add up to no greater than 13 (if, say, Ashley Wagner finished sixth and Gracie Gold seventh). The U.S. entries for worlds will be named after the national championships in Kansas City from Jan. 19-22.

MORE: New U.S. skating star performed at 2010 U.S. Champs at age 10

11. World Women’s Hockey Championship Final
Plymouth, Mich., April 7

The U.S. and Canada have played in all 17 world championships gold-medal games, so let’s just jump ahead to the final day of the event. The rivalry story is a familiar one. Canada has dominated the Olympics (four straight titles). The U.S. has dominated worlds (six of the last seven titles). The winner in Plymouth becomes the PyeongChang 2018 favorite.

12. World Aquatics Championships
Budapest, July 14-30

These will be the first worlds or Olympics since 1998 with neither Michael Phelps (retired) nor Ryan Lochte (suspended). The headliners should be Olympic champions Katie Ledecky, Katinka Hosszu, Ryan Murphy, Adam Peaty and Kosuke Hagino.

13. World Beach Volleyball Championships
Vienna, Austria, July 28-Aug. 6

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross were unable to take Olympic gold, but perhaps their first world title together will come in 2017. Both players have captured world crowns with their previous partners (Misty May-Treanor and Jennifer Kessy), but Walsh Jennings’ shoulder injury hampered them at the 2015 Worlds, where they were bounced in the round of 16.

14. World Track and Field Championships
London, Aug. 4-13

Usain Bolt has said he will retire after this season (but maybe compete in 2018), so worlds sets up to be his final global championship meet. It also shapes up to be a farewell of sorts for Mo Farah, who is expected to switch to the marathon, and possibly Ashton Eaton, who may retire in 2017 but definitely won’t compete in the 2020 Olympics.

MORE: Bolt says why he won’t unretire like Michael Phelps

15. 130th IOC Session
Lima, Peru, Sept. 13-17

IOC members are scheduled to vote to choose the 2024 Olympic host city on Sept. 13. The finalists are Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris, with LA seeking to end the longest U.S. break between hosting Olympics since 1960. The IOC president has not ruled out awarding the 2024 and 2028 Olympics this year, with LA and Paris both reported as strong 2024 candidates.

16. World Gymnastics Championships
Montreal, Oct. 2-8

A new queen of gymnastics should be crowned, as it appears Olympic all-around gold and silver medalists Simone Biles and Aly Raisman will not compete in 2017. It’s unknown when Final Five teammates Gabby Douglas and Laurie Hernandez will return, or if Douglas comes back at at all.

There is no team event at worlds this year, so the all-around crowns will be the most coveted. Biles won the last three world titles on the women’s side, while Japan’s Kohei Uchimura took the last six men’s titles. There’s no reason to believe Uchimura won’t go for No. 7.

17. U.S. Olympic Curling Trials
Omaha, Nov. 12-19

The first athletes named to U.S. Winter Olympic teams are typically curlers. The Olympic Trials for PyeongChang are again held early in the winter sports season. The U.S. is in position to qualify men’s, women’s and mixed doubles teams for PyeongChang at the world championships in March and April. Mixed doubles makes its Olympic debut in 2018.

VIDEO: PyeongChang 2018 Olympic venue tour

Nathan Chen hits short program, leads world championships

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That’s more like it, Nathan Chen.

After two disastrous Olympic short programs, Chen nailed his jumps at the world championships, taking the lead by 1.86 points over Russian Mikhail Kolyada in Milan on Thursday. American Vincent Zhou is third.

Full results are here.

“I learned a lot from the Olympics, and I used what I learned there heading into the short program in terms of where to place my mind, what to think about throughout the program,” Chen said. “It was great to have an opportunity to come back before the end of the season to try the short program again, sort of hope to redeem myself.”

Later Thursday, Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot backed up their Olympic gold with a world title, shattering the longest-standing world record in figure skating with a record margin of victory. Full recap here.

In Saturday’s men’s free skate, Chen can become the youngest men’s world champion since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2001. Zhou can become the first man to make a senior world podium the year after winning a world junior title since Plushenko in 1998. The U.S. last put two men on a world podium in 1996 (Todd EldredgeRudy Galindo).

This week’s field lacks Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, who combined to win every Olympic and world title since 2011 but ended their seasons at the Olympics.

On Thursday, Chen hit a quadruple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a quadruple flip and a triple Axel for 101.94 points (2.18 shy of his personal best). It was a reversal from PyeongChang, where Chen’s short programs began unraveling with that opening combination, and he scored 80.61 and 82.27 points.

Chen placed 17th in the Olympic short program and redeemed himself with the top free skate, moving up to fifth. He went into the Olympics as the only undefeated male skater for the season.

“That I was able to bounce back and have the long program that I did, because of that the whole Olympic experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after the short program,” Chen said Thursday. “Being able to have that, I didn’t have any ghosts of the Olympics following me [to worlds].”

Zhou, the youngest of 37 men in the field at 17, landed a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip, fist pumping at the end of his skate. He shattered his personal-best short program by 12.25 points. Zhou was sixth at the Olympics.

“I came here to skate a clean program, I did that, and being in the top three is icing on the cake,” Zhou said.

Two other medal favorites — Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China — struggled with jumps. Jin is fourth and Uno fifth.

Uno, competing with a reported ankle injury, performed a triple-double combination rather than the quad-triple he did in PyeongChang. Jin had a quad toe called under-rotated.

The third American, 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron, is in 15th place. Aaron put his hand down on his opening quad Salchow and turned out of his triple Axel landing.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Saturday ET)
Max Aaron (USA) — 6:05 a.m.
Shoma Uno (JPN) — 8:21 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 8:29 a.m.
Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 8:38 a.m.
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 8:47 a.m.
Nathan Chen (USA) — 8:55 a.m.

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Olympic pairs’ champs crush world record for world title; U.S. struggles

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Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot added a world title to their Olympic gold with a world-record score, while U.S. pairs’ struggles continued with the Americans’ lowest-ever results at a world championships.

Savchenko and Massot broke the longest-standing record total in figure skating, extending their lead from Wednesday’s short program to win by 20.31 points over Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres took bronze, France’s second Olympic or world pairs medal in 86 years.

Full results are here.

Savchenko and Massot’s free skate — the first to eclipse 160 points under the current judging system — included a side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe loop-double toe loop combination and a throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow.

Their total score — 245.84 points — shattered 2014 Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov‘s record of 237.71 set at 2013 Skate America. Their winning margin also broke Volosozhar and Trankov’s record for an Olympics or world championships under the 14-year-old points system.

Savchenko earned her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs’ list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

This was the French-born Massot’s first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

The two U.S. pairs finished 15th and 17th, which means the U.S. drops to one pairs’ spot for the 2019 Worlds, its fewest since 1957.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim dropped from 11th after the short program to 15th of 16 pairs after the free skate. Scimeca fell on their death spiral and a throw triple flip, looked distraught skating off the ice and tweeted 10 minutes later, “I’m sorry for losing us a spot” and “Bad day to have a bad day.”

The Knierims made the top 10 in their four previous world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh.

The other U.S. pair, 2000 World junior singles silver medalist Deanna Stellato and 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay, were 17th in Wednesday’s short program, missing the cutoff for the free skate by one spot.

It’s the first time all U.S. pairs finished outside the top 11 at a worlds, granted worlds didn’t regularly have a field greater than 15 pairs before 1990.

It came on the heels of the U.S. having its smallest pairs’ contingent — one pair — at an Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. The Knierims were 15th in PyeongChang, marking the first time the U.S. sent a pair to an Olympics and put none in the top 10.

The last U.S. pairs’ medal at worlds came in 2002, making this the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

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