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

Genzebe Dibaba, 1500m world record holder, to miss world championships

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Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world record holder, will miss the world track and field championships that start next week due to a right foot injury, according to her agency.

The Ethiopian Dibaba lowered the 1500m world record to 3:50.07 in 2015, then won the world title a month later. Kenyan Faith Kipyegon relegated her to silver at the Rio Olympics. Dibaba was last in the 12-woman final at the 2017 Worlds, then withdrew from the 5000m at that meet, citing illness.

Dibaba’s absence further opens the door for Americans Shelby Houlihan (second-fastest in the world last year) and Jenny Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist.

Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan is fastest in the world this year and broke the mile world record on July 12. Hassan has range from 800m through 10,000m, and it’s not guaranteed she will contest the 1500m in Doha starting with the first round Oct. 2.

The event is already lacking Caster Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion who took bronze in her world 1500m debut in 2017. Semenya is excluded from races from 400m through the mile under the IAAF’s new rule capping testosterone in those events.

MORE: U.S. roster for track and field worlds

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How to watch, stream U.S. International Classic on NBC Sports Gold

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The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic gets underway in Salt Lake City, Utah this weekend and NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will be live streaming all of the action.

The event is the third stop of the ISU’s Challenger Series and often serves as a warm-up for Grand Prix events for skaters, which start in October.

The men’s field is headlined by world bronze medalist and 2018 Olympian Vincent Zhou, joined by the 2019 world junior bronze medalist in the ladies’ event, Ting Cui. Reigning U.S. pairs champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc will make their season debut in Salt Lake. And in ice dance, Four Continents gold medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates are slated to compete.

Check out the schedule below (all times Eastern):

Friday, Sept. 19

8:30 p.m.: Pairs’ short program (LINK)

10 p.m.: Men’s short program (LINK)

Saturday, Sept. 20

4:30 p.m.: Rhythm dance (LINK)

6:15 p.m.: Ladies’ short program (LINK)

8:35 p.m.: Pairs’ short program (LINK)

10:30 p.m.: Men’s free skate (LINK)

Sunday, Sept. 21

6:25 p.m.: Free dance (LINK)

8:15 p.m.: Ladies’ free skate (LINK)

MORE: Vincent Zhou to attend Brown University, details new skating situation

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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