Short track world records
US Speedskating

Short track world records broken, fallen champion remembered in Salt Lake City

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An enduring moment of the World Cup short track speed skating stop near Salt Lake City, Utah, this weekend came well after five world records fell.

Following two days of racing, officials at the Utah Olympic Oval changed out a world records display board with the new marks set in perhaps the fastest meet of all time.

One of the fallen records belonged to South Korean Noh Jin-kyu, the 2011 World overall champion who died of cancer on April 3 at age 23.

In January 2014, Noh broke an elbow one month before what was to be his Olympic debut in Sochi. Under further inspection, a malignant tumor was found in his shoulder showing he had bone cancer, forcing him off the Olympic team and into chemotherapy.

At the Olympic Oval on Sunday, the panel with Noh’s 1500m world-record time, broken by the Netherlands’ Sjinkie Knegt earlier that day, was handed to the South Korean team, reportedly to bring to Noh’s family. A moment of silence was also held for Noh.

Knegt, the 2015 World overall champion best known for this obscene gesture, was one of many record breakers this past weekend. The Utah Olympic Oval has been known since before the 2002 Olympics to be home to the world’s fastest ice, but that designation has been more associated with long-track speed skating than short track.

The new marks set, remarkably all but one by more than one second, came in five of the eight events on the Olympic program:

Men’s 1000m
Old Record: Semyon Elistratov (RUS, 2016) — 1:22.607
New Record: Daeheon Hwang (KOR) — 1:20.875

Men’s 1500m
Old Record: Noh Jin-kyu (KOR, 2011) — 2:09.041
New Record: Sjinkie Knegt (NED) — 2:07.943

Women’s 500m
Old Record: Fan Kexin (CHN, 2014) — 42.504
New Record: Elise Christie (GBR) — 42.335

Women’s 1500m
Old Record: Fan Kexin (CHN, 2008) — 2:16.729
New Record: Choi Min-jeong (KOR) — 2:14.352

Women’s 3000m relay
Old Record: South Korea (2013) — 4:06.215
New Record: South Korea — 4:04.222

Of all the record-breaking skaters, perhaps Choi deserves the most attention. The 18-year-old is the two-time reigning World overall champion. Given South Korea has no active female short track skaters with individual Olympic titles — its only one from 2010 or 2014 is now a long-track skater — Choi may face intense attention during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Viktor Ahn, the South Korean-turned-Russian who won three golds and one bronze in Sochi, didn’t compete on Saturday and Sunday due to a cold, according to Russian media.

Also in Salt Lake City last weekend, two American records fell out of 49 total national records set in two days. The U.S. team is trying to rebuild after earning zero individual medals in Sochi, its poorest showing at the Olympics since 1998.

Katherine Reutter, the two-time 2010 Olympic medalist coming back from a three-year retirement, broke her American 1000m record set when she took silver at the Vancouver Winter Games.

In two World Cups this season, Reutter has two fifths and a sixth-place finish. No U.S. woman has made the podium.

“I feel like I’m right below the threshold,” Reutter said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t know what it is that’s got to click, but I know when I get there, the game’s going to change. … I know that moment is coming. I just have to take my medicine and wait for it to get there.

“I’d really love a medal. But incremental steps are OK. To actually get sixth, that hurt my feelings. That is what it is.”

Keith Carroll, Jr. broke the American men’s record in the 1000m, previously held by 2014 Olympian Chris Creveling (set in 2012).

Also, John-Henry Krueger won the first individual U.S. World Cup medal in nearly two years, 1500m bronze, breaking the U.S.’ longest drought in the two-decade history of the World Cup.

Krueger, who trains in South Korea, is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal since the Sochi Olympics. He was plagued by swine flu during the 2014 Olympic Trials, missing the Sochi team after entering as one of the favorites.

The short track World Cup continues in Shanghai in December.

NBC Olympics researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Utah.

MORE: South Korean Olympic short track champ switches to long track

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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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.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics