Jason Brown

Jason Brown leads U.S. short program; quad debate stoked

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Jason Brown wowed the crowd (again) and shocked himself, posting the second-highest short program in U.S. Championships history Friday night.

The Sochi Olympian scored 93.36 points and, at 20 years old, is now poised to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since Johnny Weir won the first of his three straight titles in 2004. Brown’s mouth was agape when the score was revealed.

“I was beyond shocked,” Brown told Icenetwork. “Excited doesn’t even fit the term.”

But the competition is close. He leads 2013 World junior champion Joshua Farris by 2.96 points and four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott by 3.43.

Brown will go for his first U.S. title in the free skate on Sunday (NBC and Live Extra, 4 p.m. ET). He’ll be favored to lead a three-man U.S. team for March’s World Championships, a roster that will be chosen after the U.S. Championships.

Brown came to Greensboro, N.C., as the favorite and delivered under that pressure Friday night. He executed a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple Lutz (video here).

Brown was second to Abbott at the 2014 U.S. Championships and finished ninth at the Sochi Olympics. He was the top U.S. man in the Grand Prix season that concluded in December.

Farris, a 20-year-old who beat Brown at the 2013 World Junior Championships, was a surprising second Friday (video here). He had pulled out of a Grand Prix series assignment in November with an ankle injury and finished 11th in his other Grand Prix event. He’s never finished better than fourth at a U.S. Championships.

“I am so surprised that I performed as well as I did,” Farris said in a press conference. “I was terrified going into the short program, so the fact that I skated like that, I was ecstatic.”

Abbott recorded the highest short program ever at the U.S. Championships, 99.86 last year. He skated clean again Friday, two weeks after the death of his father, raising a hand to the air after his short program (video here).

“We made a nice, strong statement that figure skating can be an art as well as a sport,” Abbott said of himself, Brown and Farris.

None of Brown, Farris and Abbott attempted a quadruple jump Friday.

“To be rather blunt, I think this is a rather tired topic,” Abbott said. “We all know that we have to have a quad at the world stage to medal … but I think that attention needs to be paid to detail. … Figure skating is a craft, and the craft can sometimes be a little overlooked. I think it’s important to have both, to be honest. I know Josh can do a quad, and I can do a quad. I haven’t seen Jason, but I’m sure he’s working on it.”

Abbott said he completely rebuilt his biomechanics off the ice leading into this season.

“I’ve been playing catch-up all season,” Abbott said. “The quad is starting to come.”

Brown said he doesn’t want to sacrifice other parts of his skating in order to incorporate the quad, which he has trained but doesn’t currently have in his competition programs.

“I won’t lose my artistry because of the quad,” Brown said. “It will just enhance the program.”

Farris said he’s planning a quad in his free skate and in the short program the rest of the season.

Aaron, in fourth, is looking to bounce back from finishing a disappointing fourth at last year’s nationals and missing the Olympic team. He landed a quadruple jump (Salchow).

Former U.S. silver medalists Adam Rippon (84.71) and Ross Miner (82.25) were fifth and sixth.

Earlier in ice dance, Madison Chock and Evan Bates edged siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani by .11 in an anticipated short dance duel between two Sochi Olympic couples. Both are going for their first U.S. title in the absence of Sochi gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

The U.S. Championships continue with the pairs free skate and free dance Saturday afternoon (NBC and Live Extra, 3 ET) and the women’s free skate Saturday night (NBC and Live Extra, 8 ET).

McKayla Maroney, Meb Keflezighi get Topps baseball cards

Men’s short program
1. Jason Brown — 93.36
2. Joshua Farris — 90.4
3. Jeremy Abbott — 89.93
4. Max Aaron — 85.78
5. Adam Rippon — 84.71
6. Ross Miner — 82.25

Tokyo Paralympic triathlon test event cancels swim due to water bacteria

AP
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TOKYO (AP) — High levels of bacteria forced the swimming portion of a triathlon test event for the Tokyo Paralympics to be canceled Saturday.

It’s the second setback in the triathlon for organizers of next year’s Olympics and Paralympics. An Olympic triathlon running event was shortened from 10km to 5km on Thursday because of what the International Triathlon Union (ITU) called “extreme levels” of heat.

Tokyo’s hot and humid summers are a major worry for Olympic organizers. The water issues are a reminder of the Rio Games, when high bacteria and virus levels were found in waters for sailing, rowing and open-water swimming.

In a statement, the ITU said E-coli levels were “more than two times over the ITU limits.” It said the water was at Level 4, the highest risk level.

E-coli bacteria, which normally live in the intestines of animals and people, can produce intestinal pain, diarrhea and a fever.

The venue in Tokyo Bay, called Odaiba, has been a concern for organizers, who have experimented with different measures to clean the water in the area, located in an urban part of central Tokyo.

The ITU is scheduled to hold it final test event on Sunday “depending on the latest water quality tests”, it said in a statement.

A few days ago the ITU described water quality conditions at the venue as “very good.” However, swimmers at a recent distance swimming event at the same venue complained of foul-smelling water.

The water temperature at the venue on Saturday was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with the air temperature hovering above 90.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya said “we are set to conduct a comprehensive review with the international federation.”

He said a triple-layer underwater screen will be installed for next year’s Olympics, replacing a single-layer.

“Based on the results of multiple research in the past, we believe that the multiple layer screen will assure the successful delivery of the competitions,” he said.

Filthy water plagued the Rio Olympics. The South American city lacks a functioning sanitation system for much of its population. Open water there tested high for bacteria and viruses, which confronted athletes in rowing, sailing and triathlon.

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MORE: Double DQ caps bizarre Tokyo Olympic triathlon test event

Women’s hurdlers take center stage as Diamond League hits crunch time; how to watch

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A showdown between world record holder Kendra Harrison (U.S.), reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (U.S.) and 2019 world leader Danielle Williams (Jamaica) in the women’s 100-meter hurdles is the marquee event of the Diamond League meet Sunday in Birmingham, England.

With the track and field world championships not starting this year until Sept. 28, the Diamond League gets an uninterrupted run to its season finales Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The 32 Diamond League events are split between the two finales, with a $50,000 prize awaiting the winner of each final.

The last two meets before those finales — Sunday’s meet and the Aug. 24 meet in Paris — are all about qualifying for a shot at those final jackpots.

Birmingham will be the last chance to win points in the men’s 400m, women’s long jump, women’s 1,500m/mile, men’s javelin, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 100m and women’s 200m. It’s the second-to-last chance in the women’s discus, women’s pole vault, men’s 400m hurdles, men’s high jump, women’s 3000m steeplechase and women’s 800m.

NBC Sports Gold streams live and commercial-free on Sunday, starting with field events at 7:15 a.m. Eastern and track events kicking off at 9 a.m. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage Monday at 4 p.m.

The women’s 100m hurdles also features two Americans who need points to reach the final — Nia Ali and Queen Claye.

Other American athletes aiming to improve solid chances of qualifying include Raevyn Rogers (women’s 800m), Jenn Suhr (women’s pole vault), Mike Rodgers (men’s 100m), Valarie Allman (women’s discus), Michael Cherry (men’s 400m), Kahmari Montgomery (men’s 400m), Vernon Norwood (men’s 400m), David Kendziera (men’s 400m hurdles), Jeron Robinson (men’s high jump) and Courtney Frerichs (women’s 3,000m steeplechase)

Americans who have already qualified in these events include Ajee Wilson (women’s 800m) and Brittney Reese (women’s long jump), both of whom will be competing in Birmingham,

U.S. qualifiers Jenna Prandini (women’s 200m), Emma Coburn (women’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Sandi Morris (women’s pole vault) will not be in Birmingham. Christian Coleman (100m) withdrew from the meet on Friday, spoiling a showdown with Canada’s Andre De Graase and leaving the potential qualification of Jamaica’s Yohan Blake as the most interesting question.

Americans who may qualify in absentia, pending other results, include Justin Gatlin (100m), Noah Lyles (100m), Jenny Simpson (1,500m), Rai Benjamin (400m hurdles), TJ Holmes (400m hurdles), Michael Norman (men’s 400m), Nathan Strother (men’s 400m) and Fred Kerley (men’s 400m).

In a non-Diamond League event, U.S. champion Craig Engels brings his famous mullet to Birmingham in the 1,500 meters.

Here are the Birmingham entry lists and the current Diamond League standings. The schedule (all times Eastern, x-event not counted toward Diamond League standings):

7:45 a.m. — Women’s Discus
8:02 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat A
8:07 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:14 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat B
8:26 a.m. — x-Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:46 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat A
8:55 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat B
9:03 a.m. — Men’s 400m
9:10 a.m. — Women’s Long Jump
9:13 a.m. — Men’s 400m Hurdles
9:19 a.m. — Men’s High Jump
9:23 a.m. — Women’s Mile
9:33 a.m. — x-Women’s 100m
9:38 a.m. — Men’s Javelin
9:43 a.m. — x-Men’s 1,500m
9:55 a.m. — Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase
10:12 a.m. — x-Men’s 800m
10:22 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Final
10:32 a.m. — Men’s 100m Final
10:41 a.m. — Women’s 800m
10:52 a.m. — Women’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 8:07 a.m.
Suhr has no Diamond League points but has the world lead at 4.91 meters. Perennial contenders Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) and Yarisley Silva (Cuba) are also competing.

Men’s 400m — 9:03 a.m.
No one has clinched qualification yet, but Cherry is set to compete in Birmingham and should get through. Americans have the top four spots in the standings — Norman, Cherry, Strother and Kerley.

Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase — 9:55 a.m.
World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and three fellow Kenyans who have all qualified alongside Coburn will have their eyes on records.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 10:22 a.m. final; 8:02 a.m. heats
Most of the top 12 on the world list this year and most of the hurdles who have clinched spots in the final will be here, including Williams and the American trio of Harrison, Sharika Nelvis and Christina Clemons. McNeal, who will run in the world championships with Harrison and Ali, will not qualify.

Women’s 200m — 10:52 a.m.
Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers, who’s aiming for her third straight world championship, has qualified but will race in Birmingham against equally accomplished sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), who has won the last two Diamond League titles at this distance and the 2016 Olympic 400-meter gold, and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whose list of international honors is lengthy.

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