Aly Raisman: Tokyo 2020 is the goal

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Aly Raisman wants to go to a third Olympics.

The six-time Olympic medalist gymnast said on The Ellen Show on Wednesday that she plans to take one year off and then return to training with an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“That’s the goal,” she said. “I’m going to take off a little bit of time, just because I think I need a little bit of a break. I took a full year off in 2012. I’m going to do the same thing, take a year off, and then I’ll begin training again.

“I thought I was in the best shape of my life in 2012. It’s even better now. So I’m excited to see what will happen in 2020.”

Raisman, 22, won three medals each at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. She is one medal shy of Shannon Miller‘s career record of seven for a U.S. Olympic gymnast, a mark that will certainly be talked about leading into 2020 should Raisman be in Olympic team contention. (Simone Biles, who is also taking a break from gymnastics but uncertain if or when she will return, has five Olympic medals.)

Raisman would become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s gymnast since Annia Hatch in 2004. In fact, Raisman will be the exact same age — to the day — on the day of the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo as Hatch was on the day of the 2004 Athens Opening Ceremony.

The last U.S. female gymnast to make three Olympics was Dominique Dawes in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

Of course, Raisman’s path will be difficult. The U.S. has proven to be the deepest nation in women’s gymnastics the last several years.

Though a rule change will cut 2020 Olympic team event sizes from five to four gymnasts, nations can actually qualify up to six gymnasts for the Games. In that case, two of the six would be eligible for individual events only.

Raisman was initially opposed to the rule change, but it could benefit her if she determines in her comeback that she would like to specialize in one or two individual events. Floor exercise is her trademark apparatus.

VIDEO: David Ortiz weighed down by Aly Raisman’s medals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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