Gracie Gold
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U.S. champions hope to end Skate America droughts

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It’s been three years since a U.S. woman won Skate America and six for the men, but Gracie GoldJason Brown and Max Aaron hope to end the drought for home skaters at the U.S.’ biggest annual international event this weekend.

Gold, Brown and Aaron, who all own U.S. titles, each seek their first Skate America crowns in Milwaukee. Short programs for all four disciplines are Friday. The long programs are all Saturday.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage Saturday from 5-6 p.m. ET. NBCSN will air coverage Sunday from 10-11:30 p.m. ET.

Gold, 20, finished third last year, behind Russians Yelena Radionova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who would go on to be the two most consistent women in the world in 2014-15 and take two places on the World Championships podium.

Gold’s chances in Milwaukee are boosted by the absence of top Russians this year. Yulia Lipnitskaya, the darling of the Sochi Olympic team event who dropped to ninth at last season’s Russian Championships, leads the Russian entries at Skate America.

Like Lipnitskaya, Gold has much to prove.

Though she’s been consistent on the major international championship stage — fourth at the 2014 Olympics and sixth, fifth and fourth at the last three Worlds — Gold relinquished her U.S. title to Ashley Wagner in January.

Then she struggled three weeks ago at the Japan Open team event, a free skate-only competition that’s closer to an exhibition than a Grand Prix like Skate America. Gold was last among a decorated six-skater field.

Another woman in the Skate America field, Japan’s World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara, outscored Gold by 20.14 points in the Japan Open.

If a non-American wins Skate America, it will match the longest U.S. women’s drought in the competition’s history.

MORE: Gracie Gold eyes rebound after crumbling in Japan

The men’s field is arguably deeper, with two of the last three U.S. champions in Brown and Aaron, plus Olympic and World bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan.

But the most anticipated skater is Japan’s Shoma Uno, a 17-year-old making his Grand Prix Series debut. Uno swept the World Junior Championship and Junior Grand Prix Final last season and was second to Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu at Japan’s senior national championships.

Uno then dusted the field at the Japan Open, including World champions Javier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, with a program that included two quadruple jumps earlier this month.

Brown, who won last season’s U.S. Championships and was fourth at Worlds, re-added a quadruple toe loop to his program in winning a small event in Slovakia three weeks ago to open his season.

Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion who just missed the team for the 2014 Olympics and 2015 Worlds, has finished no better than third in his Grand Prix series career.

A win for either Brown or Aaron at Skate America would mark the first Grand Prix title for a U.S. man since Jeremy Abbott claimed the Cup of China in 2011.

If an American does not win for a sixth straight year, it will break the record for longest U.S. men’s drought at Skate America.

The U.S. entries also include defending Skate America ice dance champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who are the reigning World silver medalists.

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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