Marissa Castelli, Simon Shnapir

Marissa Castelli, Simon Shnapir lead pairs at U.S. Championships

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Home ice was kind to Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.

The reigning national champions who train in Boston led after the pairs short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on Thursday.

They beat their personal best by more than 10 points, scoring 73.13 points skating to Santana for a cushion of 6.63.

“I was in shock at first; I was not expecting that,” Castelli said, according to The Associated Press. “I like to try to calculate it in my head. I would have been happy with 66 or 67, so it was just insane.”

Castelli and Shnapir are in the driver’s seat for one of two U.S. Olympic pairs berths. It marked confirmation that Castelli and Shnapir are the top U.S. pairs team. Their title last year came with an asterisk as the previous U.S. champions were absent due to injury.

Their closest competition Thursday was a bit of a surprise — reigning U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay followed by DeeDee Leng and Timothy LeDuc, who were ninth last year.

The pairs free skate starts at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday (NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra, 3-6 p.m.). The two U.S. Olympic pairs teams, based largely but not solely off the final standings, will be announced Sunday around noon.

U.S. Championships: Ice Dance Preview | Men’s Preview | Schedule | Short Program Start Orders

Castelli and Shnapir’s short program included clean side-by-side triple Salchows and a strong throw triple Salchow.

The biggest eye opener was Leng and LeDuc, who followed flawed efforts from more accomplished couples by posting a cleaner 66.40-point performance.

2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, he of the incredible back tattoo, were fourth at 65.40. Denney, a 2010 Olympian at 16 with a different partner, doubled a planned triple toe loop and had trouble with her landing on a throw triple flip.

“I wish we would have performed a little bit better — a lot better,” Denney told reporters. “I think right now all we can do is trust ourselves and really just move on and throw everything into Saturday’s performance and try to do the best that we can.”

2013 U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim were fifth at 64.68. They fell, nearly in unison, on side-by-side triple Salchows.

Unpredictable results are common in U.S. pairs, where few strong couples stay together for more than a few years and the previous five years produced five different U.S. champions.

In fact, the last pair to win back-to-back titles, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, won their golds in 2008 and 2009 and then failed to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team. 

No U.S. pair has won an Olympic medal since 1988. That does not figure to change in Sochi. The favorites will be Russians, Germans, Chinese and Canadians.

Pairs Short Program
1. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir — 73.13
2. Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay — 66.50
3. DeeDee Leng/Timothy LeDuc — 66.40
4. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin — 65.40
5. Alexa Scimeca/Christopher Knierim — 64.68

Sarah Hughes joins NBC Olympics for Sochi

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
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Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final