Sage Kotsenburg

Kotsenburg, Davis/White, Pikus-Pace among Best of U.S. Awards winners

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WASHINGTON – Sage Kotsenburg, Erin Hamlin, Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Noelle Pikus-Pace earned top honors at the first Best of U.S. Awards at Warner Theatre on Wednesday night.

Kotsenburg, the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, won Male Athlete of the Sochi Olympics. He beat fellow gold medalists Joss Christensen (ski slopestyle), Ted Ligety (giant slalom) and David Wise (ski halfpipe). All awards were decided by fan voting.

“I didn’t really prepare a speech,” Kotsenburg said after being presented with his award from two-time Olympic softball medalist Jennie Finch. “I didn’t know this was an awards show until last night.”

Hamlin, who won the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medal (bronze), earned Female Athlete of the Olympics over gold medalists Jamie Anderson (snowboard slopestyle), Maddie Bowman (ski halfpipe) and Mikaela Shiffrin (slalom).

“This is unreal,” Hamlin said after getting her award from 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek. “Luge, like most of you know, isn’t the most popular sport. … People know what it is now a little bit, I think. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Davis and White, the first U.S. Olympic ice dancing champions, won Team of the Olympics over U.S. men’s and women’s bobsled bronze and silver medalists.

Pikus-Pace, a mother of two who slid to skeleton silver, was chosen Moment of the Olympics winner for her post-race celebration.

“We’ve all been through so much, so many moments to get to this point in our lives,” Pikus-Pace said. “That was just a glimpse of the gratitude that I feel in my heart for all those that have helped me to get to this moment.”

Pikus-Pace won over T.J. Oshie’s shootout performance to beat Russia, the men’s slopestyle skiing podium sweep, the men’s short track relay silver and Bode Miller becoming the oldest Alpine skiing medalist at 36.

NBC’s Willie Geist hosted the event honoring the best American performances from the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics. The U.S. finished second in the Olympic medal table with 28 total, its most ever at an Olympics held outside North America.

Figure skating analysts Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski conducted interviews with each winner, and Stephen Colbert even made a video appearance. The show will air on NBCSN on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

The sled hockey gold medalists won Team of the Paralympics and took selfies on stage.

Alpine skiing medalists Mark Bathum (two silvers) and Stephanie Jallen (two bronzes) were named Male and Female Athletes of the Paralympics.

Jallen also won Moment of the Paralympics for taking a medal in her Paralympic debut.

Remembering the 2000 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team

Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
AP
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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