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Four Continents Figure Skating Championships schedule, preview

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Yuzuru HanyuPatrick Chan and U.S. champion Nathan Chen headline the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue, on NBC Sports this week.

Four Continents brings together the world’s best skaters outside of Europe, which already had its own continental championships in January.

It doubles as the Olympic test event, making it a tune-up not only for the world championships next month but also for PyeongChang 2018.

The men’s field includes the 2014 Olympic gold and silver medalists, Hanyu and Chan, plus the American Chen, who outscored both of them at the Grand Prix Final free skate in December. And Japan’s Shoma Uno and China’s Jin Boyang, the bronze medalists at the last two major international competitions.

The field includes every worlds medal contender save two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

If Chen wins this week, skating like he did at the U.S. Championships in January, he has to be considered the world championships favorite. It’s a tall order, though.

On the women’s side, the U.S. team is made up of national champion Karen Chen, plus Mariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu, who placed third and fourth at nationals. U.S. silver medalist Ashley Wagner is skipping Four Continents as usual to prepare for worlds.

The favorite is Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond. Another Canadian, Gabrielle Daleman, and Japanese Wakaba Higuchi and Mai Mihara are also in the medal mix, along with the U.S. trio. Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara withdrew last week with a hip injury.

The ice dance field is loaded with the top couple this season, 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, plus the three best U.S. couples.

Maia and Alex ShibutaniMadison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue made up half of the top six at the 2016 World Championships, including silver for the Shibutanis and bronze for Chock and Bates.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition the previous two seasons, will compete for the first time this season at Four Continents. They’ve been out due to her unspecified abdominal issue that lasted from April to November and required three surgeries.

They were cleared for full training a week before the U.S. Championships, opted not to compete at nationals and successfully petitioned for a place on the Four Continents and worlds teams.

They’ll go up against pairs that went one-two at the last two worlds, Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Four Continents Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Network
Wednesday Short dance 9 p.m. Icenetwork.com*
Thursday Pairs short program 12:15 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Thursday Women’s short program 4:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Thursday Short dance 12 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday Pairs short program 2 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday Women’s short program 4 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday Free dance 11:30 p.m. Icenetwork.com*
Friday Men’s short program 3:45 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Friday Free dance 12 p.m. NBCSN
Friday Men’s short program 1:30 p.m. NBCSN
Saturday Pairs free skate 12 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Saturday Women’s free skate 4 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Saturday Pairs free skate 8 a.m. NBCSN
Saturday Women’s free skate 2:30 p.m. NBC
Saturday Men’s free skate 9 p.m. Icenetwork.com*
Saturday Men’s free skate 11 p.m. NBCSN

*Live stream for subscribers

Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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MORE: Dawn Staley to coach U.S. women at Tokyo 2020

Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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