U.S. Figure Skating Championships men’s preview

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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships include zero men’s singles Olympians for the first time since 1968, providing opportunity for breakthroughs this weekend.

The field is without these skaters:

Jeremy Abbott, two-time Olympian and four-time U.S. champion (taking the season off)
Jason Brown, Sochi Olympian and 2015 U.S. champion (back injury)
Joshua Farris, 2015 U.S. bronze medalist (concussion)

“Hope is bubbling up,” 1998 Olympic champion and NBC Sports analyst Tara Lipinski said. “Every skater is thinking, I have a shot now. … This is going to be the most wide-open men’s event that I’ve seen in a long time.”

Icenetwork.com will stream the short program from St. Paul, Minn., on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air the free skate during coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

The winner Sunday will earn a place in the World Championships in Boston in two months.

The other two Worlds team spots could go to the silver and bronze medalists, but a U.S. Figure Skating committee will make the final decision. Brown could also petition for a spot on the team, complicating the selection process.

Here’s the full competition and broadcast schedule.

Here’s a look at men’s skaters to watch:

Max Aaron
Age: 23
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Credentials: 2013 U.S. champion; 2015 Skate America champion

Aaron is the favorite not only because he is the only past national champion in the field, but also because he won Skate America in October, becoming the first U.S. man since 2011 to take a Grand Prix title. However, Aaron was seventh in the short program in his last Grand Prix skate on Nov. 13, at Trophée Bompard in France before the free skate was canceled due to the Paris attacks.

Lipinski’s Take: “He’s the most prepared we’ve ever seen him. He’s always been athletic. He’s always had the quads, but he’s focusing so much on the artistic side, adding in that grace, which he needed … Skate America blew me away. He’s changed people’s minds with that performance.”

Adam Rippon
Age: 26
Hometown: Los Angeles
Credentials: 2012, ’15 U.S. silver medalist

Rippon, like friend and training partner Ashley Wagner, has questioned his place and future in the sport during ups and downs the last few years. The 2008 and 2009 World junior champion was eighth at the 2014 U.S. Championships but returned to the podium last year, which he described as a “scenic reborn.” He placed fourth in his two Grand Prix skates this season, with a best score 10.32 points shy of Aaron’s total at Skate America.

“When I was younger, I kind of felt the weight of the world,” Rippon said last week. “I came up in a time when it was [2010 Olympians] Johnny [Weir] and Evan [Lysacek] and Jeremy [Abbott]. I felt like the fourth or sometimes fifth wheel. … When Johnny and Evan retired, I kind of felt like it was my chance to push through. I put so much pressure on myself. … When it came down to it, and I was trying to get that Olympic spot, I put all those pressures on myself again.”

Lipinski’s Take: “Adam you can never count out. He has a quad Lutz in his repertoire. Who does a quad Lutz? If he skates clean, Max better watch out.”

Nathan Chen
Age: 16
Hometown: Irvine, Calif.
Credentials: 2014 U.S. junior champion; 2015 Junior Grand Prix Final champion

Chen came to the 2015 U.S. Championships as arguably the most intriguing skater, looking to become the youngest men’s medalist since 1973. He finished eighth but was dealing with back and heel injuries, according to International Figure Skating magazine.

Chen looks healthier this season after winning the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, attempting three quads in his free skate (falling on one and crashing on a triple Axel). Three men in this year’s field finished higher than Chen at last year’s Nationals.

Lipinski’s Take: “He’s still my dark horse. Undefeated all season. He may add four quads into his free skate.”

Ross Miner
Age: 24
Hometown: Boston
Credentials: Three-time U.S. medalist (2011-13)

Miner has finished in the top three at the U.S. Championships more than any other man in the field, but was seventh in 2014 and sixth last year. This season, Miner placed seventh at Skate America but rebounded for bronze at Rostelecom Cup with the second-best total score by a U.S. man this season (trailing only Aaron).

Grant Hochstein
Age: 25
Hometown: Artesia, Calif.
Credentials: Fourth at 2015 NHK Trophy and 2015 Cup of China

Hochstein, like Miner, brings confidence from the Grand Prix series. Before this season, he had one Grand Prix start, a 10th place at 2010 Skate Canada. His best Nationals finish was seventh in 2010, but his fall fourth-place results coupled with the depleted field could set Hochstein up for something special.

Vincent Zhou
Age: 15
Hometown: Palo Alto, Calif.
Credentials: 2013 U.S. junior champion; fourth at 2015 Junior Grand Prix Final

Zhou won national titles at the intermediate, novice and junior levels in 2011, 2012 and 2013 (youngest U.S. men’s junior champion ever) and then missed the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons due partly to injuries. He attempted quad Salchows throughout the Junior Grand Prix season.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Wagner vs. Gold: Women’s preview

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

LG Snowboard-Cross FIS World Cup
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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko
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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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