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Four Continents Figure Skating Championships schedule, preview

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Yuzuru HanyuPatrick Chan and U.S. champion Nathan Chen headline the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue, on NBC Sports this week.

Four Continents brings together the world’s best skaters outside of Europe, which already had its own continental championships in January.

It doubles as the Olympic test event, making it a tune-up not only for the world championships next month but also for PyeongChang 2018.

The men’s field includes the 2014 Olympic gold and silver medalists, Hanyu and Chan, plus the American Chen, who outscored both of them at the Grand Prix Final free skate in December. And Japan’s Shoma Uno and China’s Jin Boyang, the bronze medalists at the last two major international competitions.

The field includes every worlds medal contender save two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

If Chen wins this week, skating like he did at the U.S. Championships in January, he has to be considered the world championships favorite. It’s a tall order, though.

On the women’s side, the U.S. team is made up of national champion Karen Chen, plus Mariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu, who placed third and fourth at nationals. U.S. silver medalist Ashley Wagner is skipping Four Continents as usual to prepare for worlds.

The favorite is Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond. Another Canadian, Gabrielle Daleman, and Japanese Wakaba Higuchi and Mai Mihara are also in the medal mix, along with the U.S. trio. Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara withdrew last week with a hip injury.

The ice dance field is loaded with the top couple this season, 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, plus the three best U.S. couples.

Maia and Alex ShibutaniMadison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue made up half of the top six at the 2016 World Championships, including silver for the Shibutanis and bronze for Chock and Bates.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition the previous two seasons, will compete for the first time this season at Four Continents. They’ve been out due to her unspecified abdominal issue that lasted from April to November and required three surgeries.

They were cleared for full training a week before the U.S. Championships, opted not to compete at nationals and successfully petitioned for a place on the Four Continents and worlds teams.

They’ll go up against pairs that went one-two at the last two worlds, Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Four Continents Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Network
Wednesday Short dance 9 p.m. Icenetwork.com*
Thursday Pairs short program 12:15 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Thursday Women’s short program 4:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Thursday Short dance 12 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday Pairs short program 2 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday Women’s short program 4 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday Free dance 11:30 p.m. Icenetwork.com*
Friday Men’s short program 3:45 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Friday Free dance 12 p.m. NBCSN
Friday Men’s short program 1:30 p.m. NBCSN
Saturday Pairs free skate 12 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Saturday Women’s free skate 4 a.m. Icenetwork.com*
Saturday Pairs free skate 8 a.m. NBCSN
Saturday Women’s free skate 2:30 p.m. NBC
Saturday Men’s free skate 9 p.m. Icenetwork.com*
Saturday Men’s free skate 11 p.m. NBCSN

*Live stream for subscribers

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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