Danell Leyva, John Orozco
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Ten gymnasts to watch at P&G Men’s Championships; schedule

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Competition to determine the five-man U.S. Olympic gymnastics team begins this weekend at the P&G Championships in Hartford, Conn.

The two-day meet on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, Hartford2016.com) and Sunday (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra) mark the first of two Olympic team selection events.

P&Gs will be followed by the U.S. Olympic Trials in St. Louis on June 23 and 25, after which the five-man Olympic team will be announced.

Gymnasts can automatically qualify for the Olympic team by finishing first or second in the all-around and in the top three on three of the six individual events in combined results from four days of competition at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials. This is how John Orozco and Danell Leyva clinched their first Olympic berths in 2012.

After the Olympic Trials, a selection committee will determine the rest of the team, taking into account performances at the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The entire five-man Olympic team will be announced before June 27.

Four of the five 2012 Olympic team members, plus six more men with World Championships experience are among the gymnasts in the running for the Rio team. Here’s a look at those 10:

Chris Brooks
2010, 2015 World Championships team

Brooks, 29, competed in his second Worlds last year after three-time U.S. national champion Sam Mikulak was ruled out due to partially tearing his left Achilles. Brooks finished sixth on high bar at Worlds, just as he did in 2015. He is the U.S. champion on high bar and silver medalist on parallel bars and looking to become the oldest U.S. Olympic gymnast since 2004.

Jacob Dalton
2012 Olympian
2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 World Championships team
2013 World silver medalist — floor exercise
2014 World bronze medalist — vault

Dalton has been consistently on the top international level longer than most men on this list. His streak of Worlds appearances snapped last year, though, due to a small shoulder labrum tear that required surgery. When healthy, Dalton is a strong contributor on floor exercise, where he made the eight-man Olympic final and his last three Worlds finals, and on vault.

Steven Legendre
2009, 2013 World Championships team
2013 World silver medalist — vault

Legendre is the farthest removed from a World Championships team of anyone on this list. Like his former University of Oklahoma teammate Dalton, he is best on floor exercise — two-time Worlds finalist — and vault — 2013 World silver medal.

Danell Leyva
2012 Olympian
2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015 World Championships team
2012 Olympic bronze medalist — all-around
2011 World gold medalist — parallel bars
2014 World silver medalist — parallel bars
2015 World silver medalist — high bar

Leyva is the most decorated gymnast on this list. He has made every Olympic and World Championships team since 2009 (withdrew before 2013 Worlds due to injury). He won the 2011 U.S. all-around title and had the top score at the 2012 Olympic Trials. Leyva goes into this weekend with his left leg bandaged due to dog bites.

Sam Mikulak
2012 Olympian
2013, 2014 World Championships team

Mikulak is on a decorated list of men to win three straight U.S. all-around titles, but he missed out on the 2015 Worlds due to a partially torn left Achilles. He has returned with mixed results at the American Cup, Winter Cup and Pacific Rim Championships this year. Still, it would be a shock if Mikulak does not make a second straight Olympic team later this month.

Alex Naddour
2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 World Championships team

Naddour is valuable because he is strong on the U.S.’ weakest event — pommel horse. He made the eight-man pommel horse final at the last two World Championships and is the only active American to make an Olympic or Worlds pommel horse final. His task at the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials will be to prove his strength on some of the other five events.

John Orozco
2012 Olympian
2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 World Championships team
2013 World bronze medalist — parallel bars

Orozco, the 2012 U.S. national champion and youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s team, is coming back from a second torn right Achilles in five years. He suffered the injury June 15, was told he would be out about one year but has already competed a few times this year. If fully recovered, Orozco, who also tore his left ACL and meniscus in October 2012, is an all-around podium contender at the P&G Championships.

Paul Ruggeri III
2015 World Championships team

An alternate on the 2010, 2013 and 2014 Worlds teams, Ruggeri debuted at Worlds last year and was the lone American not to qualify for an event final. He is best on vault, high bar and floor exercise, so the return of Dalton, Mikulak and Orozco will certainly complicate his Olympic hopes this month.

Donnell Whittenburg
2014, 2015 World Championships team
2015 World bronze medalist — vault

Whittenburg, built with linebacker’s shoulders but soft-spoken, is the new American star since the London Games, finishing fourth in the all-around at the 2014 P&G Championships and second in 2015 behind Mikulak. He was the top U.S. all-arounder at Worlds, taking ninth before bagging that vault bronze.

Brandon Wynn
2010, 2013, 2015 World Championships team
2013 World bronze medalist — still rings

Like Naddour on pommel horse, Wynn is best known for one event — still rings. He finished third and fifth at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds on rings. Like Naddour, Wynn will need to improve results on some of the other five events to be more valuable to a five-man Olympic team versus a six-man Worlds team.

VIDEO: Inside Liang Chow’s gymnastics center

Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

Nathan Chen
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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

Karolina Pliskova
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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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