Johnny Weir

Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, Tanith Belbin join NBC Olympics coverage

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Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, Olympic champion Tara Lipinski and Olympic silver medalist Tanith Belbin will join NBC Olympics for its coverage through the Sochi Winter Games.

Weir, who announced his retirement Wednesday, and Lipinski will serve as figure skating analysts for NBC Olympics’ multi-platform coverage. Belbin will report for NBC Olympics’ Sports Desk and “The Olympic Zone” program.

Weir, noted enthusiast of all things Russian, won’t be competing at the Olympics for the first time since 2002. He’s a three-time national champion and 2008 World Championships bronze medalist.

“I get old,” Weir said on “TODAY.” “I have to say thank you and goodbye. … It’ll be hard not to be out there, and I’ll probably still get sick to my stomach and nervous and go through all the emotions of a competitor. But I’ll be able to support these young skaters and really teach the world what’s going on out there.”

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Weir finished fifth at the 2006 Olympics and sixth at the 2010 Olympics.

Weir, 29, could be covering two of his biggest rivals in Sochi — 2006 Olympic champion Yevgeny Plushenko and 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek.

He has covered figure skating for Universal Sports in the past and is no stranger to TV, having starred in his own reality show, “Be Good Johnny Weir.”

Weir, who announced he was gay in January 2011, also commented on Russia’s anti-gay law.

“While this law is a terrible thing that you can’t be gay publicly in Russia, I plan to be there in full support of our brothers and sisters there and not be afraid,” Weir said. “If I get arrested, I get arrested. If not, not, great, but our presence is needed. For all the Olympians that worked so hard, a boycott is the worst thing you can do to these young people.”

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Lipinski, who became the youngest individual gold medalist in Olympic Winter Games history at 15 in 1998, also has worked for Universal Sports’ figure skating coverage.

Weir and Lipinski will appear on NBC’s coverage of Skate Canada on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Belbin, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist in ice dancing with Ben Agosto, will present features for “The Olympic Zone,” a 30-minute daily show for NBC affiliates covering all aspects of the Games.

“Johnny, Tara and Tanith have entertained judges and fans alike with their skill, style and charisma,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer of NBC Olympics. “We’re confident those same characteristics will entertain Olympic viewers this February.”

Figure skating at the Sochi Olympics will begin Feb. 6, the night before the Opening Ceremony with the start of the new team competition.

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

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Serena Williams battles, then rolls into French Open second round

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Serena Williams overcame early struggles, sweeping past countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0 to reach the French Open second round.

Williams, again eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, started out like somebody who went 16 months between clay-court matches. She needed 74 minutes to take the first set from the 102nd-ranked Ahn, recovering twice after having her serve broken.

She dominated the second set in 27 minutes, advancing to play Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Williams, in long sleeves and tights, had 15 winners to 28 unforced errors in the first set in cloudy, sub-60-degree weather on Monday.

“I hate the cold. I’m from L.A. and I live in Florida,” Williams said before the tournament, which was postponed from its usual May/June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic. “For half my life I’ve never seen snow. Cold weather and me do not mix.”

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Williams also noted before the tournament that she was “not at 100 percent physically” and spent most of her time in France “rehabbing” without giving specifics. She took a medical timeout with a left Achilles injury in her last match, a U.S. Open semifinal loss to Victoria Azarenka,

“I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could perform,” Williams said Saturday. “I don’t know any athlete that ever plays physically when they’re feeling perfect. That’s just something I think as athletes we have to play with.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310. Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a record-extending 13th French Open title and male record-tying 20th Grand Slam singles title later Monday.

The French Open first round concludes Tuesday with top-ranked Novak Djokovic in action.

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