Gracie Gold tops World Championships short program

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Gracie Gold skated the best short program of her international career at an opportune time and is in position to end a nine-year U.S. women’s medal drought at the World Championships.

Gold leads after scoring an American record 76.43 points in Boston on Thursday, going into the free skate Saturday (9 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra).

“We’re only halfway through, but I can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, that maybe the drought is ending, which would be amazing,” said Gold, the two-time U.S. champion who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics and 2015 Worlds.

She was 2.45 better than Russian runner-up Anna Pogorilaya, nailing all of her jumps at TD Garden, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.

After finishing, Gold covered her hands on top of her blond hair at center ice while receiving a standing ovation as the penultimate skater.

“It was a really magical moment,” said the 20-year-old Gold, who was born in nearby Newton, Mass., raised in Illinois and resides in California. “Everything fell into place. … It felt like there was something in the arena.”

Russian pre-Worlds favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva is third, 2.7 points behind after not landing all of her jumps crisply.

“I certainly could show more potential and hoping to do that in the free skate,” Medvedeva, the 2015 World junior champion skating in her first senior Worlds, said through a translator. ‘When I stepped out and saw the full stands and the spectators so close to the ice, I realized that this is a big stage.”

Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner is in fourth after a personal-best short program, after which she tripped and fell on her behind on the ice.

It’s also Wagner’s best placement after an Olympics or Worlds short program in her seventh appearance, one year after she battled back from 11th place in the Worlds short to finish fifth.

“I’m so excited to finally get over that hump of the short program at Worlds,” Wagner said. “My biggest difficulty when I skate a clean short is separating it going into the long. … Now it’s up to me to do something similar to today.”

Gold is the first U.S. woman to lead a World Championships short program since Mirai Nagasu in 2010. Nagasu also skated Thursday, in her first Worlds since 2010, placing 10th (video here).

The last time a U.S. woman earned a World Championships medal was 2006, when Kimmie Meissner took gold and Sasha Cohen bronze. The nine-year U.S. women’s medal drought is their longest in the Winter Olympic era.

“Regardless of the drought or how many years it’s been, it would mean a lot just to be on the podium in your home country,” Gold said. “I want to do it for myself, for my support system, for U.S. Figure Skating, for Boston.”

Japanese medal hopes Satoko Miyahara and three-time World champion Mao Asada sit sixth and ninth, respectively.

The World Championships continue with the free dance on Thursday at 8 ET (NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

MORE: Olympic men’s medalists trade barbs over practice near-collision

Women’s Short Program 
1. Gracie Gold (USA) — 76.43
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 73.98
3. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 73.76
4. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 73.16
10. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 65.74

Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

Joel Embiid
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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

Delta LA 2028
LA 2028
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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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