U.S. Olympic swimmers to compete for national titles

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More than 15 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic swim team are in Austin, Texas this week for the AT&T Winter National Championships.

Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, who recently competed at the Minneapolis Grand Prix, headline the list of swimmers. Others include Allison Schmitt, Matt Grevers, Nathan Adrian, Jessica Hardy and Ricky Berens.

The Thursday-Saturday meet will be contested in a short-course yards format at the University of Texas, which means the times will differ from those at the Olympics – they’ll be lower than those long-course marks because yards are shorter than meters. Also, short-course times are typically faster because of the benefit of pushing off the walls.

So it’s no stretch to say that we’ll see some low times in Austin this week.

Many of the swimmers are using the meet as preparation for the Short-Course World Championships, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey Dec. 12-16. In Franklin’s case, the Nationals meet is a the prelude to her final high school season after the 17-year-old decided to swim for Regis Jesuit her senior season.

One swimmer we’re anxious to watch this weekend is Garrett Weber-Gale, who lives and trains in Austin. He famously won gold with the 4x100m freestyle relay team at the Beijing Olympics (read: Jason Lezak and the greatest relay swim in history) but at the 2012 Olympic Trials, Weber-Gale fell short of his goal to make the London team in the 50m and 100m freestyles and the 4x100m freestyle relay. The founder of AthleticFoodie.com, Weber-Gale recently said he’s focusing on the Short-Course Worlds for now but left the door open for what he’ll do the next three years leading up to the 2016 Olympics.

Watch prelims and finals live from Austin at USASwimming.com, and be sure to catch NBC’s coverage Sunday from 2-3 p.m. ET.

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future