Polina Edmunds

Polina Edmunds rises to her biggest win, Gracie Gold drops at Four Continents (video)

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Polina Edmunds put this season’s struggles behind her to claim the biggest victory of her young career, rising from fourth place after the short program to capture the Four Continents Championships in Seoul on Sunday.

Former U.S. champion Gracie Gold went in the opposite direction, going from second in the short program to fourth place overall in a tune-up competition before the World Championships in March.

Edmunds, who was 3.81 behind Japanese short program leader Satoko Miyahara on Friday, landed seven triple jumps in her free skate to score 122.99 points. Nobody else scored better than 116.75. She totaled 184.02 to top Miyahara by 2.43. Japan’s Rika Hongo took bronze ahead of the American Gold.

Edmunds said she was not surprised by the result.

“I knew if I relaxed and skated like I knew I could, it was possible,” the 16-year-old said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I expected myself to skate well and I did. I’m happy I was awarded the gold medal for it.”

Edmunds endured a rocky season, adapting to pressure and puberty, and missed the podium in her two Grand Prix series events. She finished fourth at the U.S. Championships, making her second straight World Championships team due to third-place Karen Chen being too young for Worlds.

“I had trouble earlier in the season with nerves and handling the different coordination,” Edmunds said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I think now I’m back to a straight level for where I am in my body. Now it’s mental for me to do clean programs.”

Edmunds was a surprise last season, when she came from no expectations to become the youngest U.S. competitor across all sports at the Sochi Olympics. She finished ninth at Sochi and eighth at Worlds.

“I want to place higher than eighth,” at Worlds in Shanghai in March, Edmunds said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “But really I want two clean programs. I do have high technical difficulty so I’m hoping that I can skate well and that the judges see the difficulty and the artistry in my skating. Honestly, my goal all the way through the season was to be on the podium. That didn’t happen, but I hope it will at Worlds.”

To make the podium, Edmunds, Gold and U.S. champion Ashley Wagner must break up a talented trio of Russians looking to become the first nation to sweep a Worlds or Olympic women’s podium since 1991. That year, it was Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.

“I don’t think that the Russians are stronger than any one of us,” Edmunds said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “We all have the same elements, everyone has different skating styles. If everyone skates clean, that’s when you can nitpick whose style you like more. Otherwise, it’s going to come down to elements and how we perform. But going into Worlds, I’m optimistic that it’s not going to be ‘the Russians are coming.'”

Gold singled at least one jump in both of her programs in Seoul. She was the top U.S. finisher at the Sochi Olympics and last year’s World Championships. Now, she’s been beaten by Wagner and Edmunds in back-to-back competitions since taking a December break to recover from a small stress fracture in her foot.

“It was a difficult competition for me,” she said of Four Continents, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I skated poorly in both segments of competition. I’m sorry about that.”

Video: Josh Farris shatters personal bests for Four Continents silver

U.S. junior champions crowned in ladies’ and men’s events

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Gabriella Izzo is the newest junior ladies’ national champion, crowned this week at the U.S. Championships in Detroit. Junior ladies’ national champions of the past include eventual Olympians Mirai Nagasu, Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Bradie Tennell.

Izzo had a commanding lead after the short program, with 60.97 points, where she pulled off her first-ever triple Lutz, triple loop combination in competition. (However, it was deemed under-rotated.) Regardless, her 111.45 points in the free skate combined for 172.42 points and the gold medal.

Audrey Shin, who actually won the free skate by just over a point, earned the silver medal with 165.61 points. Emilia Murdock took home the bronze with 154.48 points.

On the junior men’s side, Ryan Dunk rebounded from second after the short program to win the event. His 132.85-point free skate was enough to crack the 200-point overall score, the only man in the field to do so, and win the gold.

Men’s junior champions include eventual world champion Nathan Chen (twice) as well as Olympians Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown.

Dinh Tran finished second with 196.03 points after a fourth-place short program. Joonsoo Kim, who lead after the short program on Tuesday, ended up with the bronze medal with 187.95 points.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream each junior competition and replays will also be available on-demand. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

The junior rhythm dance took place earlier Wednesday. Siblings Caroline and Gordon Green lead the field with 70.82 points, while Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik are second with 65.92 points. The brother-sister team of Oona and Gage Brown are in third with 63.34 heading into Friday’s junior free dance.

Also Wednesday, Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prochnow took the lead in the junior pairs’ short program. The junior pairs’ free skate is Thursday. Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy are second, followed by Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard in third.

MORE: Full streaming schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the junior and senior U.S. Championships 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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Chloe Kim, David Wise among X Games headliners

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The X Games return to Aspen, Colorado, this week at Buttermilk Mountain. A marquee event on the yearly snowboarding and freeskiing calendar, the X Games will feature a handful of Olympic gold medalists and notable names in action sports. Below are a few storylines to watch for this week:

Nearly full field of Olympic gold medalists will compete in Aspen

All four freestyle skiing gold medalists in X Games events (halfpipe, slopestyle) and five of six Olympic snowboarding champions (slopestyle, halfpipe, big air) are expected to compete in Aspen. Among them is Chloe Kim, who has not lost a contest since the Olympics. She finished last season with a win at the US Open, and has three victories already this season, including at the Dew Tour in December. Since the Olympics, Kim’s star has only grown: she’s thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game and become an awards show regular, but her ability to crush her competition on the pipe remains unchanged.

In addition to Kim, the three other U.S. gold medalists from 2018 should all contend: in men’s ski halfpipe, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist David Wise has continued to impress this season, but as in previous years, he’ll be challenged by his teammates, Aaron Blunck and Aspen native Alex Ferreira, who would skip school as a kid to watch the X Games in person. Snowboard slopestyle gold medalists Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson are both podium threats as well.

After missing Olympics, can Sildaru sweep in Aspen?

Three years ago, a quiet and unassuming Kelly Sildaru won her first X Games title at 13, becoming the youngest ever winner in a winter event. Pegged early as a star for the PyeongChang Games in both slopestyle and halfpipe, the Estonian teenager missed the Olympics with a torn left ACL. Sildaru, who hails from a country with no mountains, will attempt a rare triple in Aspen: she’ll compete in slopestyle, halfpipe, and big air. No winter sports athlete has ever won three gold medals at the same X Games contest. Sildaru missed last year’s event due to her knee injury and has looked sharp so far this season: she won the U.S. Grand Prix in halfpipe and the Dew Tour in slopestyle. Sildaru has four X Games medals in total: two in slopestyle and two in big air.

White’s protégé awaits his big moment

Toby Miller learned from the best: the 18-year-old was mentored by three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who brought Miller to PyeongChang as his guest. White hasn’t competed since the Olympics, focusing instead on skateboarding, while Miller is having a notable season of his own: he finished third at the Dew Tour and second at the U.S. Grand Prix. The U.S. halfpipe contingent remains deep: Olympians Jake Pates, Ben Ferguson and Chase Josey are all contenders on any given day, though PyeongChang bronze medalist Scotty James will likely be the favorite.

Big tricks

The X Games are often a staging point for new tricks: in 2017, Norway’s Marcus Kleveland became the first to land a quad in competition, only to be topped by Canadian Max Parrot, who won the event with a quad of his own. Chloe Kim and PyeongChang big air gold medalist Anna Gasser have been at the forefront of innovative tricks this season. Kim, a four-time X Games winner, is still far ahead of the field with back-to-back 1080s, which she used last weekend at a World Cup event in Laax. In October 2018, she became the first woman to land a frontside double cork 1080, though she has yet to execute it in competition. Kim can win easily with the arsenal of tricks she already has – but she’d make a bit of history if she decides to go for it.

In November, Gasser became the first woman to land a cab triple underflip, though like Kim, she has not done so in competition. Known for her progressive approach to the sport and impressive arsenal of difficult tricks, Gasser could attempt the triple at the X Games.