Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Meryl Davis, Charlie White eye Olympic gold after record U.S. title

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Meryl Davis and Charlie White took care of business in Boston. The next goal is to make American history in Sochi.

Davis and White, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, won their record-breaking sixth straight U.S. Championship in ice dancing on Saturday.

In a class of their own, they padded a lead built from the short dance Friday and won with 200.19 total points and by a comfortable margin of 18.75.

They received a standing ovation at TD Garden in Boston after performing a “Scheherazade” free dance, received a perfect 60-point component score and became the first couple to break 200 points at a U.S. Championships since ice dance dropped from three programs to two in 2011.

Can they put their performance in perspective?

“It’s really hard right now,” White said on NBC. “We’re so proud of everything we’ve accomplished, and it meant so much to be able to come in here, take that title and head into the Olympics with it.”

Davis and White can turn their focus to the Olympics, where they are favored to become the first U.S. couple to win gold in ice dance.

“We’re working to earn gold,” Davis said on NBC. “We’re working really hard for it.”

They’ll lead a U.S. Olympic Team of three couples that appears cut and dry, as opposed to the drama-filled pairs. The official team that is based largely but not solely off U.S. Championships results will be announced Sunday around noon ET.

The top three couples from the short dance Friday remained the same after the free dance. Madison Chock and 2010 Olympian Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani followed Davis and White.

Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis were also second and third at the 2013 U.S. Championships and were the top U.S. couples behind Davis and White during the Grand Prix season.

Chock, Bates, the Shibutanis and nearly the rest of the world appear to be fighting for bronze in Sochi.

Davis and White, who haven’t lost in nearly two years, are thought to be challenged by one couple — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who happen to be their training partners in Canton, Mich.

Virtue and Moir are the only couple to relegate Davis and White to silver in the last four years — at the 2010 Olympics, 2010 World Championships, 2012 World Championships and 2012 Four Continents Championships.

Virtue and Moir are competing in the Canadian Championships this weekend, where they scored 76.16 points in the short dance Friday and were to perform their free dance later Saturday.

Comparing results from nationals competitions isn’t an exact science, but Davis and White scored 80.69 in the short dance in Boston on Friday.

The other top U.S. ice dancers bring international experience.

Bates finished 11th at the 2010 Olympics with partner Emily Samuelson, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in September 2010 and changed partners to Chock in summer 2011.

The Shibutanis, who have skated together for 10 years, are set to make their first U.S. Olympic Team after their strong performance to a Michael Jackson medley Saturday.

The affectionately known ShibSibs are the 2011 world bronze medalists and haven’t finished lower than third in their four senior-level U.S. Championships appearances.

“What we’re really proud of is the way we skated today and handled this whole week,” Maia Shibutani told reporters. “So if we were to be on the team it would be an absolute dream come true.”

Ice Dance Results
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White — 200.19
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 181.44
3. Alex Shibutani/Maia Shibutani — 170.44
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 168.27

U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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