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Grand Prix figure skating: 10 male skaters to watch

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Ten men to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yuzuru Hanyu
Japan
2014 Olympic champion, two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Will be the first man to go into a Winter Games as reigning Olympic and world champion since Dick Button in 1952. Hanyu also owns the highest recorded scores under a 13-year-old judging system. But he’s vulnerable, especially early in the season. Hanyu has never won his opening Grand Prix in seven tries.

Shoma Uno
Japan
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Younger (19 years old) and shorter (5 feet, 3 inches) than countryman Hanyu, but with just as much jumping firepower, if not more. Hanyu owns the three highest scores of all time. Uno has Nos. 4 and 5, set at last season’s worlds and his opening, lower-level event this season. Will try to beat Hanyu for the first time in December, either at the Grand Prix Final, Japanese Nationals or both. If he does, Uno could go into the Olympics as the favorite.

Jin Boyang
China
Two-time world bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Bronze at the last two worlds for Jin, who like Uno turns 20 in the Olympic season. Also a noted quadruple-jump practitioner, Jin is erratic. He was fifth at last season’s Skate America, failing to make the six-man Grand Prix Final. He was also fifth at the Four Continents Championships in February before rising back to the podium against tougher competition at the world championships a month later.

Grand Prix Capsules: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance | TV Schedule

Javier Fernández
Spain
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Missed a historic bronze medal for Spain in Sochi because he repeated a jump at the end of his free skate and earned zero points for the element. Became clutch on the global stage in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu’s short-program leads to win both world titles. But then did the opposite at 2017 Worlds, squandering a short-program lead and finishing fourth. Trains with Hanyu in Toronto under double Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Nathan Chen
U.S.
2016 Grand Prix Final silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, U.S.

A phenom in his first senior season last year. Chen outscored Hanyu in the Grand Prix Final free skate, then beat the Japanese megastar at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue. In between, he became the first man to land seven quads at an event in winning the U.S. title at age 17. Chen ended up sixth at worlds, where he attempted eight quads overall skating on duct-taped boots. His sophomore Grand Prix season opens with a showdown with Hanyu in Moscow.

Patrick Chan
Canada
Three-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

The Olympic favorite going into the Grand Prix season four years ago. Chan won the 2011, 2012 and 2013 World titles before taking silver behind Hanyu in Sochi. He rested for a year and beat Hanyu in his Grand Prix return in 2015, but Chan has so far been unable to match the men listed above in quadruple jumps. Fifth at the last two worlds.

Jason Brown
U.S.
Fourth at 2015 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

A respectable ninth in Sochi as the youngest U.S. Olympic male singles skater since 1976. Brown won his first U.S. title a year later but struggled with injuries the last two seasons. He has also never landed a fully rotated quadruple jump, which has put him a tier below the six above men. Still, has a great shot to make the three-man Olympic team after placing seventh at worlds last season.

Vincent Zhou
U.S.
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Zhou has the quadruple jumps to contend. The 16-year-old actually was second to Chen at last season’s nationals but did not compete at senior worlds because he had zero senior international experience. He won junior worlds instead, with three quads in his free skate, to post the highest score ever by somebody his age. For now, it’s Zhou who is the top threat to Chen at nationals in January.

Adam Rippon
U.S.
2016 U.S. champion
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

A decade older than training partner Chen and Zhou. Rippon will try for a third time to make his first Olympic team. He looked on his way after winning his first U.S. title in 2016, but a broken foot kept him from defending that last year as the two teens ascended. Now, Rippon will likely need to master a quad or two if he wants to control his own destiny to earn a spot in PyeongChang.

Mikhail Kolyada
Russia
2016 Russian champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, China

Yevgeny Plushenko‘s retirement left a gaping hole in Russian men’s skating. The 22-year-old Kolyada was fourth at his first senior worlds in 2016 but dropped to eighth last year, continuing the unpredictable results of the country’s next-in-line skaters.

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MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics