Jason Brown

Jason Brown, Gracie Gold set for international season debuts in Germany

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The U.S.’ top men’s and women’s figure skaters from the Sochi Olympics kick off their seasons at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, beginning Thursday.

Gracie Gold, fourth in Sochi and fifth at March’s World Championships, leads the women in Oberstdorf. Gold, 19, embarks on a season where she hopes to become the first U.S. woman to win a World Championships medal since 2006, the longest drought in recent history.

Gold’s bigger competitions will come later this season — Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Ill., in October; NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, in November; potentially the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December; the U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in January and, potentially, the World Championships in Shanghai in March.

All three of the 2014 U.S. Olympic women’s skaters are competing this season — Gold, Ashley Wagner (seventh in Sochi) and Polina Edmunds (ninth in Sochi).

Only two other women who finished in the top nine in Sochi are competing this season — Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and fifth-place Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia.

Gold’s Sochi teammate, Jason Brown, faces tougher international threats in his season debut in Oberstdorf. It will be his first international competition since the Sochi Olympics.

Brown, who finished ninth in Sochi, has worked on quadruple jump but is not ready to add it to a competition program just yet.

“It’s starting to feel more comfortable and confident, but it’s just not landed the way we want it to then put it in the program,” he told USA Today, which reported Brown will modify his trademark ponytail and wear his hair partly down for his free skate for the first time since 2005.

He was second in Oberstdorf last year, a distant 26.62 points behind Nobunari Oda, who failed to make Japan’s Olympic team.

Brown’s biggest competition at the event this year includes Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten and Czech Michal Brezina, who was one spot behind Brown in Sochi.

Brown, like Gold, is scheduled to make his Grand Prix season debut at Skate America next month.

Brown’s prospects for making it to the 2015 World Championships were boosted by the performances of countrymen Jeremy Abbott and Max Aaron at last season’s Worlds in Japan. There, they earned three U.S. men’s spots for the 2015 Worlds. The U.S. had two men’s spots at Worlds in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

A U.S. man has not won a World Championships medal since Evan Lysacek in 2009. The drought, like with the women, is the longest in recent history. Lysacek has not competed since the 2010 Olympics and recently said his career is coming to an end.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported Vancouver Olympian Mirai Nagasu was competing in Oberstdorf. She was listed as a potential substitute but won’t skate.

Yevgeny Plushenko out this season; health to determine future

2026 Winter Olympic host: Milan-Cortina

AP
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Italy will host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo winning an IOC vote over a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm.

Milan-Cortina won with 47 votes to Stockholm–Åre’s 34 to become the first Olympics with multiple official host cities.

Italy boasted its public support (83 percent in a March IOC poll versus 55 percent in Sweden) and financial guarantees (Stockholm officials declined to sign the IOC’s host-city contract, leaving it to the smaller ski resort of Åre).

“I cannot look into the heads of my colleagues, but gathering a little bit the atmosphere when leaving the room, my assumption is that what was key and what finally made the difference was the gap in the public support,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, who was not among the voters. “This was, for many members, a clear signal. Public support offers goes hand in hand with political support. This was maybe also the reason then why the city of Stockholm was not ready to sign the host-city contract.”

The Games return to a traditional European site for the first time since Italy hosted in Torino in 2006 after Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022).

The two bids were left after five others dropped out for various reasons, all in 2018: Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Sapporo, Japan; Graz, Austria and Sion, Switzerland.

With the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts both decided two years ago (Paris for 2024, Los Angeles for 2028), next up is the 2030 Winter Games. The U.S. has already said that if it bids, it will be with Salt Lake City, which held the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Italy will host the Winter Games for a third time after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Torino in 2006.

Its bid presentation Monday included all three Italian 2018 Olympic champions speaking — Arianna Fontana (short track), Michela Moioli (snowboard cross) and Sofia Goggia (downhill). The presentation ended with 15-year-old short track speed skater Elisa Confortola addressing more than 80 IOC members.

Italy’s initial bid declaration in March 2018 was for a joint Milan-Torino candidate. Cortina was added within a week to make it a three-pronged bid. By September, Torino dropped out after political infighting, when a senior Italian official declared the bid “dead.” But the bid pressed on as Milan-Cortina, sites separated by more than 200 miles.

Sweden has finished second or third in all seven of its Winter Olympic bid votes, including six straight from 1984 through 2002, according to the OlyMADMen. Stockholm–Åre was trying to become the first Winter Games held in multiple countries, with Latvia holding bobsled, luge and skeleton.

The IOC praised how both bids fit with Agenda 2020 with 80 percent of the venues already existing or temporary and organizational budgets 20 percent lower than 2018 and 2022 cities.

More on the Milan-Cortina bid:

Proposed Dates: Feb. 6-22 (Olympics), March 6-15 (Paralympics)

Venues
Milan
 — Figure skating, hockey, short track
Cortina d’Ampezzo (220 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (women), bobsled, luge, skeleton, curling, biathlon (Antholz)
Val di Fiemme (160 miles northeast of Milan) — Cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, speed skating (outdoors)
Valtellina (85 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (men, Bormio), freestyle skiing, snowboarding

Ceremonies
Opening Ceremony — San Siro (home of AC Milan and Inter Milan)
Closing Ceremony — Verona Arena (Roman amphitheatre 90 miles east of Milan)

Slogan
“Dreaming Together”

IOC Evaluation Group Report
“Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport. The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region. While planning is still at an early stage, the project has the potential to achieve the long-term goals of the cities and the region in line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm.”

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master schedule

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Japan’s gymnastics worlds team: no Kohei Uchimura, Kenzo Shirai

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Not only is Kohei Uchimura going to miss the world championships, but so is 11-time world medalist Kenzo Shirai.

Japan finalized its five-man team for October’s worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, following a national-level meet this past weekend. Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, was already out of the running, sidelined with his latest round of injuries.

Shirai, reportedly slowed by a left ankle injury this season, did compete this weekend. But he finished fifth on floor exercise and third on vault, his two best events, and did not earn one of the last two spots on the world team.

Uchimura, a two-time Olympic all-around champion with six world all-around titles, misses worlds for the first time since 2007. Shirai, a 22-year-old with four world titles between floor and vault, had competed in every worlds since debuting in 2013, just after his 17th birthday.

Without their two stars, Japan sends a relatively inexperienced team. Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa, both 22, are the only men who have been to a worlds (and were part of the 2018 silver-medal team). The youngest member is 17-year-old Daiki Hashimoto.

Japan has earned a team medal at every Olympics and world championships since 2003, a streak bettered only by the U.S. women.

MORE: Olympic gymnastics team sizes return to five for Paris 2024

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