U.S. Figure Skating president: Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang Olympics

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KANSAS CITY — U.S. Figure Skating president Sam Auxier said Russia shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics due its ongoing doping scandal.

“I don’t think they should be able to,” Auxier said at the U.S. Championships on Thursday. “I mean, it’s state-sponsored. It was a huge program, well-coordinated to cheat, and they should pay a pretty stiff penalty. And I think the only way the IOC and the ISU maintain any level of integrity is to take a strong stand and weigh a strong penalty for those actions.”

In December, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commissioned report by investigator Richard McLaren accused Russia of a widespread doping cover-up at the Sochi Winter Olympics, including urine-sample swapping.

No Russian figure skaters have been announced as suspended in relation to the Russian doping reports, though Russian athletes in other sports have been banned. Some bans were lifted due to a lack of evidence.

The International Skating Union (ISU) said on Dec. 9 that “if and when there are sufficient elements and evidence to pursue anti-doping rule violations, the ISU will not hesitate to open disciplinary proceedings against bodies or persons subject to infringements.”

On Dec. 23, the International Olympic Committee said 28 Russian athletes faced doping cases in relation to the Sochi Winter Olympics but did not name names.

“At this point it’s really out of our control,” Auxier said Thursday. “It’s up to WADA and the people doing the analysis, and then the ISU will have to decide what type of penalty they will weigh against that, given the evidence.

“It’s important to us that the ISU take a strong stand against doping in making sure our athletes, who are all clean, compete against athletes who are clean. We are very focused on what the decision is and what steps the ISU will take, and we’ll exert any influence we’re able to.”

U.S. Figure Skating executive director David Raith said the federation is “a highly motivated, highly interested bystander in that to see what the ISU and the IOC do.”

Russia had the best figure skating team at the Sochi Winter Olympics and continues to be a world power. It boasts reigning Olympic champions in the women’s and pairs events and the last two women’s world champions.

In Sochi, Russian Adelina Sotnikova earned gold in the women’s event.

American Gracie Gold finished fourth in Sochi and was asked last week her thoughts if Sotnikova, who hasn’t been implicated publicly by an official body, were to be stripped of her medals. That would move Gold up to bronze in the singles event and, potentially, silver in the team event.

“As far as I know, everything is still under investigation, so I can’t really speak,” Gold said. “It certainly is causing some headlines, though. … I competed against Adelina for many years. I loved her. I think she’s still a sweetheart. A lot of the Russians, I’ve found them all to be lovely people, despite maybe what other people [say] their stigma. … I don’t feel like anyone could suspect something so widespread.”

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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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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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