Chen Roulin could stand alone in Olympic diving history after Rio 2016

Chen Ruolin
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China’s Chen Ruolin could finish the Rio Olympics with an unmatched diving record, and she could continue on to Tokyo 2020, but her platform prowess is in doubt after this past season.

Chen has entered four career Olympic events and won all of them. She took gold in the platform and synchronized platform at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, debuting at the Olympics as a 15-year-old.

Chen, now 22, lit the cauldron at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, in August 2014, but she suffered a setback this year.

Chen underperformed at the Chinese diving trials and did not make the World Championships team in the individual platform, where she had taken gold or silver at the previous four Worlds dating to 2007.

At Worlds, North Korean Kim Kuk-hyang came away with the platform title, followed by Chen’s countrywoman Ren Qian, who is 14, and Malaysia’s Pandelela Rinong for an unusual all-Asian podium. North Korea owns zero Olympic diving medals.

Chen still competed, taking her fourth straight World title in the synchro platform.

If Chen can make her third Olympic team next year, she will go to Rio looking to break the record for most career Olympic diving gold medals.

She shares it with retired Americans Greg Louganis and Pat McCormick and retired Chinese Guo Jingjing and Fu Mingxia and an active teammate, Wu Minxia. Of those divers, only McCormick joined Chen in going undefeated at the Olympics, sweeping the individual platform and springboard in 1952 and 1956.

Wu, a three-time Olympian on the springboard and seven years older than Chen, also competed only in synchro at Worlds in July, earning gold.

Chen said at Worlds in Kazan, Russia, that she has no interest in the springboard, which platform divers have been known to switch to late in their careers.

Chen, who was raised by grandparents, started diving at age 4 and has shied away from talk of being China’s next great diver, also wouldn’t say if Rio would be her last Olympic run.

As for the best divers of all time, Chen named Guo and Wu as role models.

Chen said a fifth Olympic gold medal would be a highlight — but not necessarily the end — of one of the greatest diving careers, perhaps the greatest ever.

NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report.

MORE DIVING: Men’s platform sets up for more drama in Rio

Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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