Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir assess Gracie Gold

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KANSAS CITY — Tara Lipinski could see it in Gracie Gold during her warm-up before Thursday’s short program.

“It looks like she’s fearful,” Lipinski said on the NBCSN broadcast. “Gracie has to get mad.”

Gold at first appeared confused. It looked like she lined up to start her performance as if it was her long program before spinning around and resetting before her short program music started.

She would place fifth with a key error, doubling a planned triple flip.

“This is what always happens with Gracie,” Lipinski said on the broadcast of the flip. “You could see it on her face, scared.

“She can do a triple flip in her sleep. There’s no reason she missed that.”

Gold, the defending U.S. champion, is in danger of not making the three-woman world championships team going into the free skate Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Gold has struggled ever since topping the 2016 World Championships short program. She fell to fourth at worlds, then had poor outings in all four of her competitions in the fall and made a desperate move to visit her old coach after Christmas.

Lipinski and Johnny Weir spoke with Gold before the U.S. Championships. Weir said he shared with Gold his own story of struggle.

At the 2006 Olympics, Weir placed second in the short program and then fell to fifth overall after the free skate. A year later, he moved and changed coaches.

“I totally get it, but there’s a time when you have to grow up and you have to do your job,” Weir told media Friday. “I chose to change everything that needed change. I changed my coach, choreographer, where I lived. I threw myself completely off, and it was to my benefit. … You have to make those changes, be brave enough to do it.”

Lipinski questioned whether Gold enjoyed competing and said, “there’s no life to her skating right now.”

“You could just see she wasn’t all there,” Weir said. “I think she’s ready for the season to be done, so she can make the changes that she needs to make.”

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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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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.

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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