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After stars’ worry, Olympic golf to stay

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Golf was recommended by the IOC executive board to remain on the Olympic program through 2024, along with all sports from the Rio Games.

Golf’s place at the 2024 Olympics — either in Los Angeles or Paris — is set to be ratified by an IOC membership vote later this summer.

Golf was re-added to the Olympics in 2009, but only for 2016 and 2020. When golfers played in Rio, it marked the first Olympic tournaments in 112 years.

Olympic golf had its skeptics leading up to the Games as many men’s stars decided not to play for various reasons, including Jordan SpiethRory McIlroy and Jason Day.

“Because of how [Olympic golf is] being approached in golf circles … I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after [Tokyo 2020],” McIlroy said in May 2016.

Both Adam Scott and Gary Player said before Rio they believed Olympic golf should be for amateurs only.

“We’ve got to remember that a lot of people in golf across the world worked extremely hard to get golf back into the Olympics, and if the top players don’t play, we could get kicked out of the Olympics,” Player said in April 2016.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said after the Rio Games that golf’s return to the Olympics was “a game-changer.” He was at the men’s final round with IOC president Thomas Bach in August and said Bach “was blown away.”

“Without me having to explain the situation to him, [Bach] explained to me why at the outset of our entry to the Olympics, we had some hesitation,” Finchem said. “He said, ‘We’ve seen it in a few other sports, but now they understand the power of being an Olympian, of being able to compete on this stage, of being able to interface with these wonderful athletes from all over the globe.’”

Bach said to “expect mammoth galleries” at Tokyo 2020.

Paris is favored to be awarded the 2024 Olympics. Its venue plan has golf at Le Golf National, which will host the 2018 Ryder Cup.

The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid plan has golf at Riviera Country Club, which has hosted the PGA Tour stop in Los Angeles for more than 50 years. Riviera also held equestrian events at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, as noted by Olympic historian Bill Mallon.

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Bradie Tennell trails at Skate America after rare error

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Bradie Tennell burst onto the podium at 2017 Skate America by nailing all 15 of her jumps. She missed on her first jumping pass at the same event Saturday and sits in fifth place going into Sunday’s free skate.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara topped the short program with 73.86 points, looking to be the first woman since Yuna Kim to repeat as Skate America champion. Countrywoman Kaori Sakomoto, runner-up at last year’s Skate America, is again in second place, 2.57 behind.

Tennell, the U.S. champion and top American at the Olympics (ninth) and worlds (sixth), trails by 12.14.

She struggled with her opening triple Lutz-triple loop combination, managing just a single loop on the back end. It’s a new combo for the 20-year-old, one that only Olympic champion Alina Zagitova performed last season among senior women.

“It’s very, very rarely does that happen,” Tennell told Andrea Joyce on NBC Sports Gold. “I think I just hesitated a little bit, but these things happen. We’re all human. It’s not going to happen tomorrow.”

The Skate America free skate airs live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Sunday.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Tennell is the marquee U.S. female skater of the moment. Olympians Ashley WagnerPolina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu are taking the Grand Prix season off. Gracie Gold is coming back in two weeks but hasn’t competed in nearly two years. The other active Olympian, Karen Chen, just withdrew from her first Grand Prix next month with a foot injury.

Only ardent skating fans knew of Tennell at this time last year.

She had been sixth and ninth at the previous two U.S. Championships and wouldn’t make her Grand Prix debut until last season’s Skate America on Thanksgiving weekend. There, she posted the top score by a U.S. woman in a year and a half, earned bronze and became a clear favorite to make the three-woman Olympic team.

Though Tennell made uncharacteristic jumping errors in PyeongChang and at worlds, she opened this season by beating Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia at a lower-level event in Canada last month.

Medvedeva and Zagitova make their Grand Prix season debuts the next two weeks.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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.

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MORE: Starr Andrews, next leading U.S. woman?

Nathan Chen wins Skate America by largest margin in history

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Nathan Chen scaled back the quadruple jumps, yet still won Skate America by the largest margin in the event’s history.

Chen, on a fall recess from Yale freshman classes, totaled 280.57 points between Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate, prevailing by 41.06 points over a field lacking any other Olympic or world medalists. It’s the largest gap in any discipline at Skate America under the 16-year-old points system.

It’s also the world’s top score on the young season. Yet Chen attempted four quads total in Everett, Wash., down from the eight he tried at the Olympics, to ease into the season.

“It’s a great start for me,” Chen told Andrea Joyce on NBCSN after landing three quads in a clean free skate. “I definitely had sort of lower expectations coming into this event, just because I’m in a completely new situation in life. … Watered down my programs a little bit, but I think it was definitely appropriate.”

Chen was a disappointing fifth in PyeongChang, then won the world title a month later by the largest margin in history.

With Saturday’s victory, Chen tied the U.S. men’s record of four Grand Prix series titles (Jeremy AbbottTodd EldredgeJohnny Weir, though Eldredge won more Grand Prix-level events before the series debuted in 1995).

The 19-year-old flies back to New Haven for school, returning to the Grand Prix during Thanksgiving break for Internationaux de France. That field includes two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China and Jason Brown, the top American from the Sochi Olympics.

Chen’s biggest competition are Japanese Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. He would not face them until December’s Grand Prix Final at the earliest.

U.S. bronze medalist Vincent Zhou, sixth at the Olympics, was fifth at Skate America. The 17-year-old landed five quads between two programs but was dinged for several under-rotations.

Skate America continues later Saturday with the women’s short program, featuring U.S. champion Bradie Tennell.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Earlier Saturday, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the pairs’ title by the largest margin at a Grand Prix in four years. The two-time world medalists totaled 204.85 points — 25.87 ahead of fellow Russians Alisa Efimova and Aleksandr Korovin — and topped the free skate by 16.27.

Tarasova and Morozov were fourth in PyeongChang but are the top returning active pair. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing in a Grand Prix.

Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot are on an indefinite break. Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong haven’t competed since the Games with Sui recovering from a stress fracture in her foot. Bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada retired.

Americans finished third (Ashley Cain, Timothy LeDuc), fourth (Olympians Alexa Scimeca Knierim, Chris Knierim) and sixth (Nica Digerness, Danny Neudecker), extending a drought of 12 years without a Grand Prix title for a U.S. pair.

The three teams combined for falls in five of their six programs. After, the Knierims said they split from coach Savchenko.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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.

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MORE: Starr Andrews, next leading U.S. woman?