Max Aaron leads U.S. Championships after short program

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Max Aaron just missed the 2014 Olympic and 2015 World Championships teams. He’s making sure he won’t be left out this season.

Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, skated a clean short program, with a quadruple jump, to lead the U.S. Championships going into Sunday’s free skate (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra, 4-6 p.m. ET).

“Tonight was a good fight,” Aaron said (more from Aaron in an NBC interview here). “Nothing really went smooth.”

Aaron totaled 91.83 points in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday and leads past U.S. silver medalists Ross Miner by .93 and Adam Rippon by 3.82. Full results are here.

Aaron was third at the 2014 U.S. Championships, missing the two-man Olympic team, and fourth at the 2015 U.S. Championships, missing the three-man World Championships team.

This season, Aaron won Skate America in October, becoming the first U.S. man to take a Grand Prix title since 2011.

He came into the U.S. Championships as a clear favorite due in part to the absences of both Sochi Olympians (Jason Brown, back strain, and Jeremy Abbott, sitting out this season) and 2015 U.S. bronze medalist Joshua Farris (concussion).

The last time the U.S. Championships men’s event included zero Olympians was 1968.

Miner, who made three straight U.S. podiums from 2011-13, had his best-ever short program, though he lacked Aaron’s quad.

Rippon, a two-time U.S. silver medalist seeking his first title, stepped out of the landing of his opening triple-triple jump combination. He has a quadruple Lutz in his arsenal but did not attempt a four-revolution jump.

“I kind of doubted myself for a second heading into my first combination,” Rippon said (more from Rippon in an NBC interview here). “After that, I told myself that I just needed to let it go, do all the elements as well as I could, fight through them, or [coach] Rafael [Arutyunyan] would kill me. And I wanted to live.”

Nathan Chen, 16, performed two quadruple jumps in his short program and placed fourth with 86.33 points.

“I’m pretty happy with how I did,” Chen, who is trying to become the youngest U.S. man to finish in the top three at Nationals since 1973, told media in St. Paul. “This was the first time I’ve ever tried two quads in a short program. Honestly, it was a big risk for me, but I thought this would be the best time to do it. I’m trying to set myself up as a senior skater, and I think this is a good step.”

The Junior Grand Prix Final champion turned out of the landing on his first quad and put a hand on the ice landing his triple Axel.

“He’s the future, but right now I think we want to be the present,” said Rippon, who trains with Chen.

Men are competing for three spots on the team for the World Championships in Boston in two months.

The U.S. champion earns an automatic Worlds berth, while a committee will choose the other two after the free skate, taking into account recent results in top national and international competitions.

Complicating the decision is the 2015 U.S. champion Brown’s back strain that’s kept him out of competition since the end of October. Brown has petitioned for a place on the Worlds team.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday with the pairs, ice dance and women’s long programs on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: Patrick Chan considered quitting after Grand Prix Final

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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