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.

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U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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