Ashley Wagner

World Figure Skating Championships schedule

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U.S. Figure Skating has lofty goals across all four disciplines at this week’s World Championships in Shanghai, China, including winning its first women’s medal in nine years.

Olympians Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds are all medal threats, the U.S. champion Wagner in particular. Their biggest competition will be three Russians, including Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova, the two women who beat Wagner at the Grand Prix Final in December.

Wagner, Gold and Edmunds are all trying to become the first U.S. women’s Olympic or Worlds individual medalist since Kimmie Meissner and Sasha Cohen in 2006, the longest drought since World War I.

They’re also out to keep Russia from the first women’s podium sweep since Americans Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in 1991.

RELATED: Ashley Wagner has Worlds medal in sight, but aims higher

The U.S. men’s trio would like to qualify three spots for the 2016 World Championships in Boston, the first in the U.S. since Los Angeles 2009. To do that, the two best placements from U.S. champion Jason Brown, Adam Rippon and Joshua Farris must combine to be no worse than 13th (Brown places sixth and Rippon seventh, for example).

That won’t be easy. The men’s field includes reigning Olympic and World champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan and World bronze medalist Javier Fernandez of Spain. Russians Maksim Kovtun and Sergey Voronov and Japan’s Takahito Mura also outperformed all of the Americans in the Grand Prix season.

RELATED: Jason Brown doesn’t plan quad for Worlds

The U.S.’ best shot at gold may be in ice dance with Sochi Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates. They were eighth at the Winter Games and fifth at the 2014 World Championships.

But this season, with Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White sitting out, Chock and Bates won two Grand Prix events and finished second at the Grand Prix Final, the second biggest international event behind Worlds.

Finally in pairs, U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim want to finish in the top six. That would match or better the best American finish in pairs since 2006.

Here’s the schedule of events in Shanghai (all times Eastern):

Tuesday: Short dance (9:30 p.m.)
Wednesday: Pairs short program (6:15 a.m.)
Wednesday: Women’s short program (10:30 p.m.)
Thursday: Pairs free skate (7 a.m.)
Thursday: Free dance (10:30 p.m.)
Friday: Men’s short program (4:30 a.m.)
Friday: Women’s free skate (10:30 p.m.)
Saturday: Men’s free skate (5:45 a.m.)

Icenetwork.com will provide live online coverage to its Season Pass subscribers.

NBC will air coverage Saturday from 8-10 p.m. ET.

Tara Lipinski/Johnn Weir previews: Women/Ice Dance | Men/Pairs

Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

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.

Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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