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Karen Chen, Ashley Wagner duel at Skate Canada; preview

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The top two U.S. female figure skaters go head-to-head at Skate Canada, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on Friday and Saturday.

U.S. champion Karen Chen and 2016 World silver medalist Ashley Wagner open their Olympic seasons in earnest at the second of six Grand Prix events leading up to the Grand Prix Final in December.

Three-time world champion Patrick Chan, U.S. Olympian Jason Brown and world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir also headline the fields in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The Skate Canada broadcast schedule on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA (all times Eastern):

Friday — STREAM LINK
Women’s Short — 3 p.m.
Short Dance — 5 p.m.
Men’s Short — 8 p.m.
Pairs Short — 10 p.m.

Saturday — STREAM LINK
Women’s Free — 1 p.m.
Free Dance — 3 p.m.
Men’s Free — 7 p.m.
Pairs Free — 9 p.m.

NBCSN will air a highlights show Sunday from 11:30 p.m.-1 a.m. ET.

All coverage will stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. Olympic Channel coverage will also stream on Olympicchannel.com and the Olympic Channel app.

Women
The field here is deep, but let’s start with the Americans.

Karen Chen (no relation to U.S. men’s champion Nathan Chen) still needs to prove the kind of consistency associated with the three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner.

While the 18-year-old Chen won her first national title last season (in a huge upset) and finished a strong fourth at worlds, she has never placed better than fifth in four Grand Prix starts. And she was third at a smaller international event in Salt Lake City last month, outscored by Mirai Nagasu, who was fourth at nationals.

Chen must get through much more experienced skaters to reach the podium on Saturday.

Wagner, 26, made her senior international debut at Skate Canada a full decade ago and won this event in 2015. But she has something to prove as well. Wagner’s last season was her least successful in six years. She already threw out her Olympic season free skate last month.

Instead, the favorites have to be Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, Japanese Marin Honda and Russian Anna Pogorilaya.

Osmond won Skate Canada in her Grand Prix debut in 2012 at age 16. She struggled with injuries the next three seasons, making zero top-level podiums, but re-emerged last season to take silver at worlds. If Osmond is truly the top threat to Olympic super favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, she’ll notch her biggest international win in five years on Saturday.

Honda, the 2016 World junior champion with 244,000 Instagram followers, won her senior international debut last month against a field that included three of the top four from the U.S. Championships. Japan has only two Olympic spots, so she must be on her game early this season to impress selectors.

Pogorilaya imploded at worlds — 13th place — but was arguably the world’s second-best skater last fall. The 19-year-old won both of her Grand Prix starts and was third at the Grand Prix Final. Russia is so deep that Pogorilaya is on the bubble for one of its three Olympic team spots, along with another Skate Canada entrant — Maria Sotskova.

Men
Shoma Uno 
is the clear favorite here. The world silver medalist posted the fourth-highest score of all time at a lower-level event to open the season last month. Though the diminutive 19-year-old descended to earth at the free-skate only Japan Open, he remains the only man in this field with a clear path to an Olympic medal.

Canadian Patrick Chan is far more accomplished, with three world titles and an Olympic silver medal already to his name. But he lacks the technical firepower to win a seventh Skate Canada crown if Uno is clean with all of his quadruple jumps.

Jason Brown is the class of the rest of this field. Will he land a fully rotated quadruple jump in competition for the first time? It would be a big step en route to a possible second Olympic berth come January, when he’ll be up against consistent quad men at nationals.

Pairs
Five of the top eight pairs from the last Grand Prix season are in this field, led by two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and 2017 World silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany.

Duhamel and Radford struggled last winter, with a seventh-place finish at worlds, where they were looking to become the first pair to three-peat in nearly 40 years. Problems persisted with three falls in their free skate at a low-level event last month.

Savchenko and Massot aren’t yet Olympic eligible — the French-born Massot is finishing German citizenship tests. They are the favorites this week given their success last season before and after the Ukraine-born Savchenko tore an ankle ligament — two Grand Prix wins, then silver medals at Europeans and worlds.

The other podium contenders are Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, France’s best pair in more than a decade, and Chinese Peng Cheng and Jin Yang.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier could really use two strong skates after finishing 20th at worlds and fourth against a weak field in Salt Lake City a month ago. They’re currently an underdog for the U.S.’ one Olympic spot in pairs.

Ice Dance
Tessa Virtue 
and Scott Moir went undefeated in their return last season after two years off. They’ve also won their last six starts at Skate Canada dating to 2007.

Nobody in this field should challenge the 2010 Olympic champions who already own the highest score in the world this season set last month.

The silver medal could go to Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. They were on the brink of breaking out a season ago, but Hubbell fell at nationals and Donohue crashed at worlds. Shocking in top-level ice dance.

Canadian’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are a great measuring stick for the Americans. They’ve been in the top five at worlds seven straight times but went winless last season in a step backward.

Bettering Weaver and Poje in Canada would be an important step to show that Hubbell and Donohue belong in Olympic medal talk.

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Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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Kaetlyn Osmond leads Grand Prix France as co-favorite falls (video)

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Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond topped the Grand Prix France short program, moving closer to another Grand Prix Final berth on Friday.

The world silver medalist was flawed — performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple and putting a hand down on another jump landing.

She goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 1.26-point lead over Russian Maria Sotskova. Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa is third, while the lone American Polina Edmunds is ninth.

Co-favorite Alina Zagitova of Russia fell and dropped to fifth place in Grenoble.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron improved on their personal best with 81.40 points, the third-highest all-time in an eight-year-old system.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres by 4.66 going into Saturday’s pairs free skate.

The event continues later Friday with the men’s short, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Osmond, 21, was a revelation last season, winning her first Grand Prix medals in four years, making her first Grand Prix Final and finishing second to dominant Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva at worlds.

She’s continued that this fall, winning her first two events in Canada to solidify Olympic medal favorite status. One Canadian woman has won an individual Olympic medal in the last 25 years — Joannie Rochette‘s emotional bronze in 2010.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, fell on her opening triple Lutz. Zagitova won her Grand Prix debut in China two weeks ago and ranks second to training partner Medvedeva in top scores this season.

Medvedeva, Zagitova and Sotskova are the favorites to claim Russia’s three Olympic women’s spots. Sotskova, 17, made the podium in all three of her Grand Prix starts but was a disappointing eighth at last season’s worlds.

Edmunds tallied 56.31 points Friday, stepping out of the landing of her opening triple-triple jump combination.

Still, she improved on her short program from her earlier event this season, where she scored 49.62 with errors on all of her jumps.

Edmunds, the youngest U.S. Olympic competitor across all sports in Sochi, went 20 months between competitions, missing the entire 2016-17 season due to a bone bruise in her right foot.

She is an underdog to make the three-woman U.S. team for PyeongChang that will be named after nationals in January.

Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva continued her string of underwhelming programs since her 2015 World title. She fell on a triple Axel attempt and singled a Lutz, plummeting to last place of 11 skaters.

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Internationaux de France
Women’s Short Program
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 69.05
2. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 67.79
3. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 66.05
9. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 56.31

Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.40
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 73.55
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 70.02
6. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 60.64

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 77.84
2. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 73.18
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 70.65
6. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 58.99