Sage Kotsenburg

Olympics add events for Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games

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Snowboard big air, an Alpine skiing team event, mixed doubles curling and mass start long-track speed skating were added for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee on Monday, bringing the Winter Games program to at least 100 medal events for the first time.

Snowboard parallel slalom, which debuted at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, was taken off the program.

That brings the total number of events at the 2018 Olympics to 102, topping the previous Winter Olympics record high for medal events of 98 in Sochi. The number of Winter Olympic events rises with every Olympiad. At Sarajevo 1984, there were 39 medal events.

On Dec. 8, the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms recommended limiting the Winter Olympics to approximately 2,900 athletes and 100 events. Sochi 2014 had more than 2,800 athletes, but reportedly fewer than 2,900, in its 98 events.

In big air, snowboarders do a single trick off a ramp similar to those seen on slopestyle courses.

Men’s snowboard big air has been part of the International Ski Federation’s World Championships since 2003, with Finland dominating, though Canada and the U.S. have fared well at the Winter X Games. Women’s big air debuted at the World Championships this year but hasn’t been added to the X Games yet. Both men’s and women’s snowboard big air were approved for the 2018 Olympics on Monday.

Sochi snowboard slopestyle bronze medalist Mark McMorris is the reigning X Games snowboard big air champion. Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion Sage Kotsenburg has also competed in X Games big air and was eliminated in qualifying the last two years.

Kotsenburg said he would like to compete in both slopestyle and big air at the Pyeongchang Olympics, should he qualify and pending the format.

“I’m a little better in slopestyle than big air,” he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It changes quick, the top people. You could be crushing it all year, and then all of a sudden someone can learn a new trick and because it’s just one jump, they can beat you. I think that’s what’s fun about it though.”

An Alpine skiing team event has been part of the World Championships since 2005. At the World Championships, it has included nations competing in knockout-style parallel slalom runs. Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin and Olympic giant slalom champion Ted Ligety participated in the team event at the 2015 World Championships, but not Lindsey Vonn, who is stronger in the speed events of downhill and super-G.

The Alpine skiing team event and mixed doubles curling become the sixth and seventh mixed-gender events at the Winter Olympics, joining figure skating’s team event, ice dance and pairs, biathlon’s mixed relay and the luge team relay.

Hungary, Sweden and Switzerland have been recent powers in mixed doubles curling at World Championships. Hungary has not won a Winter Olympic medal since 1980.

Long-track speed skating’s mass start, where skaters race 16 laps in a pack like short-track speed skating but on  bigger oval, has been part of its World Cup schedule the last four seasons.

Other sports previously reported to be vying for a spot in the Winter Olympics included team snowboard cross and synchronized skating.

International Ski Federation defends slopestyle’s safety

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated speed skating’s mass start was 6400m.

Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Kimmie Meissner, Casey entering skating Hall of Fame

Meryl Davis, Charlie White
AP
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — As they enter the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, Meryl Davis and Charlie White ponder just who they are joining in receiving one of the highest honors in their sport.

“One of the things that makes it so special is we are friends with and respect so much so many previous people who have gone into the Hall of Fame,” Davis said before the induction ceremony Saturday. “Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamguchi, Brian Boitano — people we look up to and now we are in their company.”

As are 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner and the late Kathy Casey, one of American figure skating’s most successful coaches.

Davis and White, along with training partners and friends Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, were at the forefront of bringing ice dance to previously unreachable heights for Americans. Once the abyss of the sport, Americans now tend to populate podiums in international competitions.

In 2010 at the Vancouver Olympics, Davis and White followed Belbin and Agosto four years earlier as silver medalists. At the Sochi Games in 2014, they edged Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 champions, for the gold.

Davis and White won every U.S. title from 2009-14, plus two world crowns.

NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

But Davis and White were — and are — about so much more than their on-ice performances. He now coaches and she has been instrumental in the startup and development of Figure Skating in Detroit, an offshoot of the inner city Figure Skating in Harlem program that has been a rousing success in New York City.

“When we were young skaters and took the lay of the land of the sport,” White said, “we thought about becoming leaders of the sport. We recognized we would have a role as we were ascending and we felt it was a real responsibility. Be thoughtful and considerate with anyone you deal with. We tried to let our skating do the talking as competitors, but we wanted the way we conducted ourselves off the ice to be professional and helpful to the sport.

“We have felt the responsibility because of everything skating has given to us to give back responsibly and, in the end, to always be grateful.”

Meissner, still one of the few American women to master the triple Axel, also is one of those rare athletes to be a champion on all level. She won novice, junior and senior U.S. titles.

Her performance at age 16 at Calgary worlds soon after finishing sixth at the Turin Olympics as the youngest U.S. athlete not only was a highlight of her career but of any world championships.

“I was ready for that moment,” said Meissner, who also coaches and is in school to become a physician’s assistant. “I had been practicing that way pretty much before the Olympics. It was nerves at the Olympics and I was happy to salvage what I did.

“At worlds, I was not shocked at all that I skated clean at a time when it really needs to happen.”

Casey, who died in September, spent more than 50 years in the sport. She helped advance the biomechanical studies of jumps and was expert at helping skaters correct technical aspects of their performances. In 2005, she was the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sports Science Coach of the Year.

The official U.S. coach at three Olympics, Casey coached two-time U.S. champion Scott Davis (1993-94). She was the Professional Skaters Association president from 1989 to 1994, was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2008.

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MORE: Nathan Chen leads men’s short program, followed by world team battle

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.

Nathan Chen leads U.S. Figure Skating Championships, followed by world team battle

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Nathan Chen broke his own U.S. Figure Skating Championships short program scoring record, hitting two quadruple jumps en route to a whopping 13.14-point lead on Saturday.

Chen, trying to become the first man to win four straight national titles since Brian Boitano in 1988, tallied 114.13 points. Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, is in second after beating Chen in artistic marks but lacking a quad. Andrew Torgashev is the surprise third-place skater going into Sunday’s free skate.

Chen hit a quad flip, triple Axel and a quad toe-triple toe combination in Greensboro, N.C., on limited practice due to a recent flu.

“I’m thrilled with it,” Chen, a Yale sophomore, said on NBC. “This was probably the least prepared I’ve been, but I really made good use of the last week, the week that I was able to actually start getting training in.”

Nationals continue later Saturday with the pairs’ free skate and the free dance, live on NBC Sports. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

How substantial is Chen’s lead? No other skater, pair or dance couple has led a U.S. Championships by double digits after a short program since the Code of Points was instituted in 2006. Chen has now done it three times in the last four years.

Chen, undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, is all but assured to lead the three-man world championships team. Who will join him is what will be determined Sunday.

Brown is in strong position to go to a fourth world championships in Montreal in March. He was clean on his three jumping passes, though the only man in the top five without a quad. Brown is the second-ranked U.S. man overall this season, coming back from a late August concussion when his Uber ran a red light, T-boned another car, then swung sideways and hit the car a second time.

“The season has been such a struggle,” Brown said. “To work through each setback and to be able to put up a performance like that, that I’ve worked so hard to do, that’s where the emotion came from.”

Torgashev, who won the 2015 U.S. junior title at age 13, made his case with a clean short featuring a quad toe. Torgashev’s best senior nationals finish in three starts was seventh last year. He is the son of two world junior medalists from the Soviet Union.

Vincent Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, has twice finished second to Chen at nationals. He was strong on Saturday considering his turbulent season, placing fourth with a quad Salchow.

Zhou attempted to match Chen last fall by balancing Ivy League classes with training. It didn’t work, and he went the entire autumn without committed skating. He decided to take a break from Brown University and move to Toronto to train under a new coach, Lee Barkell.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Adam Rippon takes pleasure in new role — coaching U.S. silver medalist

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.