Three U.S. ice dance teams into GP final with NHK 1-3 finish

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U.S. ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani notched a victory and two personal bests on their way to the top of the NHK Trophy podium in Nagano, Japan. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, also of the U.S., earned the bronze. With podium finishes, both duos are into the Grand Prix Final held in two weeks in Barcelona.

U.S. couple Madison Chock and Evan Bates already qualified for the final by winning medals at Skate America and Cup of China earlier this season, making for an unprecedented three team force in the ice dance discipline of the Grand Prix Final.

The “ShibSibs” now own the highest total score of any ice dance team in the Grand Prix circuit this season, 174.43. They were the only team to crack into the 174-barrier. Their free dance, the second component of their overall score, was also a personal best. The NHK Trophy win was the siblings’ second career Grand Prix title across six seasons on the circuit. Their previous gold medal came from the 2011 NHK Trophy.

The U.S. traditionally has strong ice dance representation at the Grand Prix Final. Last year, in their first appearance, Chock and Bates earned silver medals. The Shibutanis have competed twice in the final and finished fourth in the 2014 event. Hubbell and Donohue will make their Grand Prix Final debut this year.

U.S. Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White own five consecutive Grand Prix Final ice dance gold medals from the 2009-10 season through 2013-14. They have not competed for the past two seasons.

MORE: Ladies, men’s and pairs results from NHK and Grand Prix Final analysis

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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