Javier Fernandez, Yuzuru Hanyu

Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir preview World Championships men’s, pairs events

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The last time Yuzuru Hanyu skated in Shanghai, he fell five times during his performance, with a bandage wrapped around his head and a blood-stained chin on Nov. 8.

The Olympic champion is back in the Chinese city this week, looking to become the first Japanese skater to repeat as World champion.

“He’s had quite a challenging season with a number of obstacles,” said his coach, two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, according to The Associated Press. “But each time he seems to bounce back.”

RELATED: World Championships schedule

In November, Hanyu and China’s Yan Han collided violently in a warm-up at a Grand Prix series event in Shanghai.

Hanyu, 20, was checked by medical staff and performed his free skate less than an hour later, finishing second overall despite fall, after fall, after fall, after fall, after fall.

He returned to Japan the next day, being wheeled through an airport in front of many fans. Three weeks later, Hanyu fell on jumps in both of his programs at his next competition and finished fourth.

Still, he snuck into December’s Grand Prix Final, the biggest competition this season outside the World Championships.

At the Grand Prix Final, Hanyu again fell in both of his programs. Yet he still won by a whopping 34.26 points.

Then came his next problem, bladder surgery that kept him off the ice in January.

Despite all that, both NBC Olympics analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir tapped Hanyu as the favorite at Worlds this week.

“Hanyu was so strong at the Grand Prix Final, and despite making the one mistake [the fall], he was in such good form, so classy and so dignified, and skating a way that an Olympic champion should skate,” Weir said. “It will be hard for anyone to overtake him because he is so respected by the judges and the International Skating Union.”

If anyone can deny Hanyu, Lipinski and Weir agreed it’s Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, the Olympic bronze medalist who won the Four Continents Championship in Seoul in February.

Ten’s total score at Four Continents — 289.46 — would have beaten Hanyu at the Grand Prix Final, but Ten didn’t qualify for the Grand Prix Final due to early season struggles.

“When [Ten] is on, it’s magical,” Lipinski said. “He sets himself apart from the group because he is the all-around skater. He has every part of the package. He has the speed, the quads [jumps], the beautiful quality of his skating.”

Another rival is Spain’s Javier Fernandez, who took second to Hanyu at the Grand Prix Final and is the two-time reigning World bronze medalist. But Fernandez’s best skating this season hasn’t rivaled Hanyu or Ten at their best.

Then there are the three Americans, who are unlikely to grab the first U.S. men’s medal since Evan Lysacek‘s gold in 2009 but hopeful of retaining three berths for the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

Lipinski and Weir agree that’s a very reachable goal. The top two U.S. men, out of Jason Brown, Adam Rippon and Joshua Farris, must have combined placements equal to or better than 13 to attain it. For example, Brown to finish sixth and Rippon seventh.

The best American may be Farris, even though he was third at the U.S. Championships in January and is making his senior Worlds debut. The 2013 World junior champion could have won the U.S. title had he not mistakenly put three double toe loops in his free skate at Nationals.

Farris, 20, took a planned quad jump out of his short program due to boot issues, but he is coming off a breathtaking second-place performance at Four Continents.

“Josh is proving that he has staying power,” Lipinski said. “He is a breath of fresh air. The style he skates in, the way that he feels the music. He’s in tune with his performances and brings a very different style than someone like Jason.”

RELATED: Farris expects Worlds perfection, four months after embarrassment

Brown, also 20, in January became the youngest U.S. champion since 2004 and in Sochi became the youngest U.S. Olympic men’s singles skater since 1976.

He will not put a quad jump in either program in Shanghai, after two-footing a landing on his first in-competition quad attempt at Four Continents. That might be a decision that hangs with Brown beyond Worlds and into next season.

“Once you do [a quad] once, at your very first event, and it doesn’t go too well, then taking it out and not trying it, all summer it becomes this elephant in the room, and you can blow it out in your mind,” Lipinski said. “It becomes tough to overcome.”

RELATED: Brown explains quad decision for Worlds

Then there’s Rippon, a two-time World junior champion making his third Worlds appearance and first since 2012. Rippon has a quad Lutz in his arsenal, but landing it and keeping the rest of his program intact is far from a sure thing.

“He doesn’t have the consistency,” Lipinski said. “It’s all about the mental game.”

A U.S. pair could finish higher at Worlds than the best U.S. man for the first time since 2011. U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim boast a quad twist and were fifth at Four Continents, against a field of the top U.S., Canadian and Chinese pairs.

Throw in the Russians this week, but Scimeca and Knierim are aiming for the top six. That would match or better the best U.S. finish in pairs since 2006.

“It’s realistic, but for me they’re a team that if they do make a mistake and start to get sloppy, it upsets the whole performance,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski, Weir preview Worlds women’s, ice dance events

2026 Winter Olympic host: Milan-Cortina

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Italy will host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo winning an IOC vote over a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm.

Milan-Cortina won with 47 votes to Stockholm–Åre’s 34 to become the first Olympics with multiple official host cities.

Italy boasted its public support (83 percent in a March IOC poll versus 55 percent in Sweden) and financial guarantees (Stockholm officials declined to sign the IOC’s host-city contract, leaving it to the smaller ski resort of Åre).

“I cannot look into the heads of my colleagues, but gathering a little bit the atmosphere when leaving the room, my assumption is that what was key and what finally made the difference was the gap in the public support,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, who was not among the voters. “This was, for many members, a clear signal. Public support offers goes hand in hand with political support. This was maybe also the reason then why the city of Stockholm was not ready to sign the host-city contract.”

The Games return to a traditional European site for the first time since Italy hosted in Torino in 2006 after Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022).

The two bids were left after five others dropped out for various reasons, all in 2018: Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Sapporo, Japan; Graz, Austria and Sion, Switzerland.

With the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts both decided two years ago (Paris for 2024, Los Angeles for 2028), next up is the 2030 Winter Games. The U.S. has already said that if it bids, it will be with Salt Lake City, which held the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Italy will host the Winter Games for a third time after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Torino in 2006.

Its bid presentation Monday included all three Italian 2018 Olympic champions speaking — Arianna Fontana (short track), Michela Moioli (snowboard cross) and Sofia Goggia (downhill). The presentation ended with 15-year-old short track speed skater Elisa Confortola addressing more than 80 IOC members.

Italy’s initial bid declaration in March 2018 was for a joint Milan-Torino candidate. Cortina was added within a week to make it a three-pronged bid. By September, Torino dropped out after political infighting, when a senior Italian official declared the bid “dead.” But the bid pressed on as Milan-Cortina, sites separated by more than 200 miles.

Sweden has finished second or third in all seven of its Winter Olympic bid votes, including six straight from 1984 through 2002, according to the OlyMADMen. Stockholm–Åre was trying to become the first Winter Games held in multiple countries, with Latvia holding bobsled, luge and skeleton. Sweden remains the nation with the most Winter Olympic gold medals yet to host a Winter Games.

“Our hope and expectation has been that the IOC would be ready to move from words to action and have confidence in Sweden’s ability to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games based on our proposal and vision,” Stockholm–Åre said in a press release. “We neither want, nor can present, a concept that involves major government grants and guarantees – or change the legislation – for a sports competition.”

The IOC praised how both bids fit with Agenda 2020 with 80 percent of the venues already existing or temporary and organizational budgets 20 percent lower than 2018 and 2022 cities.

More on the Milan-Cortina bid:

Proposed Dates: Feb. 6-22 (Olympics), March 6-15 (Paralympics)

Venues
Milan
 — Figure skating, hockey, short track
Cortina d’Ampezzo (220 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (women), bobsled, luge, skeleton, curling, biathlon (Antholz)
Val di Fiemme (160 miles northeast of Milan) — Cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, speed skating (outdoors)
Valtellina (85 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (men, Bormio), freestyle skiing, snowboarding

Ceremonies
Opening Ceremony — San Siro (home of AC Milan and Inter Milan)
Closing Ceremony — Verona Arena (Roman amphitheatre 90 miles east of Milan)

Slogan
“Dreaming Together”

IOC Evaluation Group Report
“Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport. The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region. While planning is still at an early stage, the project has the potential to achieve the long-term goals of the cities and the region in line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm.”

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master schedule

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Japan’s gymnastics worlds team: no Kohei Uchimura, Kenzo Shirai

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Not only is Kohei Uchimura going to miss the world championships, but so is 11-time world medalist Kenzo Shirai.

Japan finalized its five-man team for October’s worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, following a national-level meet this past weekend. Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, was already out of the running, sidelined with his latest round of injuries.

Shirai, reportedly slowed by a left ankle injury this season, did compete this weekend. But he finished fifth on floor exercise and third on vault, his two best events, and did not earn one of the last two spots on the world team.

Uchimura, a two-time Olympic all-around champion with six world all-around titles, misses worlds for the first time since 2007. Shirai, a 22-year-old with four world titles between floor and vault, had competed in every worlds since debuting in 2013, just after his 17th birthday.

Without their two stars, Japan sends a relatively inexperienced team. Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa, both 22, are the only men who have been to a worlds (and were part of the 2018 silver-medal team). The youngest member is 17-year-old Daiki Hashimoto.

Japan has earned a team medal at every Olympics and world championships since 2003, a streak bettered only by the U.S. women.

MORE: Olympic gymnastics team sizes return to five for Paris 2024

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