U.S. couples trail after World Championships short dance

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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France lead two U.S. couples after the World Figure Skating Championships short dance in Boston on Wednesday, seeking to become the first repeat ice dance gold medalists since 2007.

Papadakis, still dealing with residual effects from an August concussion, and Cizeron scored a personal-best 76.29 points and take a lead of 1.59 into the free dance Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra).

It’s the highest short dance score since Meryl Davis and Charlie White‘s world record 78.89 at the Sochi Olympics.

U.S. Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are in second and third, respectively. The third U.S. couple, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, is seventh, putting the U.S. in position for three couples in the top seven overall for the first time since 1965.

The Shibutanis, who also tallied a personal best Wednesday, are trying to become the first siblings to win a World title in 25 years.

“It was the strongest performance of the season,” Maia said in a press conference. “We truly loved our short dance this season, so to end it like that in front of the audience today was pretty special.”

The last Americans to win a World title were Davis and White, who prevailed in 2013 and then became the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champs in 2014. They haven’t competed since but haven’t retired, either.

The Shibutanis have been on the upswing this year, winning their first U.S. title in January and their first Four Continents Championship in February, beating Chock and Bates in both competitions.

The Shibutanis earned World bronze in their first year as seniors in 2011 but haven’t been on the podium at the Olympics or Worlds since, with a best of fifth at the 2015 Worlds.

Chock and Bates led after the 2015 Worlds short dance but were passed by Papadakis and Cizeron in the free skate as the French became the youngest couple to win a World title in 40 years.

This season, the French returned from Papadakis’ concussion in an August practice fall to win their Nationals in December and the European Championships in January. She dealt with headaches and trouble focusing for months.

“I still have some headaches sometimes,” Papadakis said Wednesday, “but nothing really bothering me training.”

This year, Chock and Bates hope to play the comeback role.

“A silly mistake on my second twizzle that cost us,” Bates told media in Boston. “At this event, with this many good teams, you just can’t afford that. So, a little bit disappointed in myself.”

Later Wednesday, IceNetwork.com will provide live coverage of the men’s short program for subscribers beginning at 6:15 p.m. ET.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra coverage of the men’s short program will air at midnight ET.

WORLDS PREVIEWS: Men | WomenPairsIce Dance | Broadcast Schedule

World Championships Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 76.29
2. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 74.70
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 72.46
7. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 68.44

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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