Six months since Sochi: U.S. figure skaters

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Since coming home from Sochi, Olympic figure skaters have kept pretty busy. Take a look at what the Americans have been up to.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

The ice dancing gold medalists seem to be everywhere. Together, they were named grand marshals of the 88th America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit. The duo will also be grand marshals at NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.

Davis competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and won with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. White finished fifth with partner Sharna Burgess.

White proposed to girlfriend and Olympic silver medalist Tanith Belbin in Hawaii.

Though the ice dancing team hasn’t officially retired, they are sitting out the upcoming season.

Women

Gracie Gold, fourth in Sochi, said she’s taking baby steps getting ready for the new season. She toured in Japan and attended a few Hollywood parties, such as the “Divergent” movie premiere.

Ashley Wagner, seventh in Sochi and at Worlds, is scheduled to open her Grand Prix season at Skate Canada in two months, followed by Trophée Éric Bompard in Bordeaux, France (full Grand Prix assignments here).

Polina Edmunds, the youngest of the Americans at 16, will also skate in the Grand Prix season. She participated in the July 4 Rose, White and Blue Parade in her hometown of San Jose, Calif.

Men

Jeremy Abbott‘s decision not to retire after Sochi paid off. He finished fifth at the World Championships in March, helping earn three men’s spots for the U.S. at the 2015 World Championships.

He’s not done with the sport – he wants to leave an impact in some way – but doesn’t know how long he will continue. He is entered in Skate America and NHK Trophy in Japan next season.

Jason Brown, whose “Riverdance” free skate captivated audiences, will return to Skate America and is slated for the Moscow stop in the Grand Prix season.

Ice Dancing

Maia and Alex Shibutani have been on tour in Japan, uploading their trademark “ShibSibs” videos of their travels. They placed ninth in Sochi and sixth at the World Championships in March, one spot behind another U.S. couple, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, at both competitions.

Pairs

Even though Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay split since Sochi, Zhang threw out a ceremonial first pitch from Bartholomay’s shoulders at a Tampa Bay Rays-Milwaukee Brewers game July 28 (video here).

Zhang has since retired and plans on attending the University of South Florida. Bartholomay has teamed with Gretchen Donlan.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir also split and found new partners. For Castelli, it’s Canadian Mervin Tran, who has sought release from Skate Canada.

“I’m American all the way,” Castelli said to Icenetwork, when asked if she would consider representing Canada.

Tran joked that the six-hour commute from Boston to Montreal is good bonding time, as the pair will train in both locations.

Shnapir will stay in Boston with DeeDee Leng, 20, who split with partner Timothy LeDuc in the spring. From day one, the new pair said the goal will be Pyeongchang 2018.

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Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
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Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

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Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

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Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

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