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Grand Prix figure skating: 10 male skaters to watch

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Ten men to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yuzuru Hanyu
Japan
2014 Olympic champion, two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Will be the first man to go into a Winter Games as reigning Olympic and world champion since Dick Button in 1952. Hanyu also owns the highest recorded scores under a 13-year-old judging system. But he’s vulnerable, especially early in the season. Hanyu has never won his opening Grand Prix in seven tries.

Shoma Uno
Japan
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Younger (19 years old) and shorter (5 feet, 3 inches) than countryman Hanyu, but with just as much jumping firepower, if not more. Hanyu owns the three highest scores of all time. Uno has Nos. 4 and 5, set at last season’s worlds and his opening, lower-level event this season. Will try to beat Hanyu for the first time in December, either at the Grand Prix Final, Japanese Nationals or both. If he does, Uno could go into the Olympics as the favorite.

Jin Boyang
China
Two-time world bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Bronze at the last two worlds for Jin, who like Uno turns 20 in the Olympic season. Also a noted quadruple-jump practitioner, Jin is erratic. He was fifth at last season’s Skate America, failing to make the six-man Grand Prix Final. He was also fifth at the Four Continents Championships in February before rising back to the podium against tougher competition at the world championships a month later.

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Javier Fernández
Spain
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Missed a historic bronze medal for Spain in Sochi because he repeated a jump at the end of his free skate and earned zero points for the element. Became clutch on the global stage in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu’s short-program leads to win both world titles. But then did the opposite at 2017 Worlds, squandering a short-program lead and finishing fourth. Trains with Hanyu in Toronto under double Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Nathan Chen
U.S.
2016 Grand Prix Final silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, U.S.

A phenom in his first senior season last year. Chen outscored Hanyu in the Grand Prix Final free skate, then beat the Japanese megastar at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue. In between, he became the first man to land seven quads at an event in winning the U.S. title at age 17. Chen ended up sixth at worlds, where he attempted eight quads overall skating on duct-taped boots. His sophomore Grand Prix season opens with a showdown with Hanyu in Moscow.

Patrick Chan
Canada
Three-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

The Olympic favorite going into the Grand Prix season four years ago. Chan won the 2011, 2012 and 2013 World titles before taking silver behind Hanyu in Sochi. He rested for a year and beat Hanyu in his Grand Prix return in 2015, but Chan has so far been unable to match the men listed above in quadruple jumps. Fifth at the last two worlds.

Jason Brown
U.S.
Fourth at 2015 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

A respectable ninth in Sochi as the youngest U.S. Olympic male singles skater since 1976. Brown won his first U.S. title a year later but struggled with injuries the last two seasons. He has also never landed a fully rotated quadruple jump, which has put him a tier below the six above men. Still, has a great shot to make the three-man Olympic team after placing seventh at worlds last season.

Vincent Zhou
U.S.
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Zhou has the quadruple jumps to contend. The 16-year-old actually was second to Chen at last season’s nationals but did not compete at senior worlds because he had zero senior international experience. He won junior worlds instead, with three quads in his free skate, to post the highest score ever by somebody his age. For now, it’s Zhou who is the top threat to Chen at nationals in January.

Adam Rippon
U.S.
2016 U.S. champion
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

A decade older than training partner Chen and Zhou. Rippon will try for a third time to make his first Olympic team. He looked on his way after winning his first U.S. title in 2016, but a broken foot kept him from defending that last year as the two teens ascended. Now, Rippon will likely need to master a quad or two if he wants to control his own destiny to earn a spot in PyeongChang.

Mikhail Kolyada
Russia
2016 Russian champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, China

Yevgeny Plushenko‘s retirement left a gaping hole in Russian men’s skating. The 22-year-old Kolyada was fourth at his first senior worlds in 2016 but dropped to eighth last year, continuing the unpredictable results of the country’s next-in-line skaters.

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It has been 7 years since Simone Biles last lost an all-around

Simone Biles
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Simone Biles had braces but no driver’s license and “Harlem Shake” topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last time she was beaten in all-around competition, seven years ago this week.

Biles, then having just turned 16, took second to 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross at a tri-meet among the U.S., Germany and Romania in Chemnitz, Germany, on March 30, 2013.

It was just the third senior meet of Biles’ career in her first year as a senior gymnast. Since that runner-up, Biles has won 21 straight all-arounds through the October 2019 World Championships, rarely even challenged (though she has been defeated in unofficial national team camp competition).

Chemnitz marked one of the least consequential meets of Biles’ sterling career. She devoted one sentence to it in her autobiography, “Courage to Soar,” and noted she was distracted from the stress of competition on the overseas trip by daydreaming about a birthday present.

“Secretly, I hoped that when I got back home, a shiny new turquoise-blue Ford Focus would be waiting for me in our driveway,” she wrote.

Ross, speaking by phone last week, faintly recalled when asked the last time Biles was defeated.

“I think it was … were we in Germany?” she said. “Oh gosh, I don’t even know if I can remember it that well.”

Ross did remember training before the meet at a German national team gym.

“When we got to the arena we were all kind of shocked,” she said. “In elite, we’re all used to competing on podium or in these big arenas. It was more of just almost like a college meet. Like it was a basketball floor. Nothing was on podium.

“I don’t even remember how the scores were shown or anything. Those meets in the spring in elite we’re just trying to get our routines figured out and get more consistent.”

Ross was the all-around star of the U.S. program at the time, given fellow 2012 Olympians Gabby DouglasJordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman were taking breaks. She won both Chemnitz and the U.S. Classic (where Biles was pulled mid-competition by coach Aimee Boorman after early struggles).

Later that summer, Biles edged Ross by two tenths of a point combining scores from two days at nationals, and they again went one-two at the world championships.

“I felt like it was kind of the two of us,” Ross said. “This was her time to upgrade and make a name for herself. I definitely feel like I helped her and guided her a little bit. I feel like Martha [Karolyi] wanted me to teach her the ropes a little bit just because she always so fun and outgoing but definitely needed to try to learn and focus and understand what it was like to compete internationally and compete for Team USA.”

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Boglarka Kapas, world champion swimmer, tests positive for coronavirus

Boglarka Kapas
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Boglarka Kapas, the Hungarian swimmer and world 200m butterfly champion, said she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I don’t have any symptoms yet, and that’s why it’s important for you to know that even if you feel healthy you can spread the virus,” was posted on her social media. “Please be careful, stay at home and stay healthy.”

Kapas said her first test was negative but a second test showed she had the virus. She was staying in quarantine at home for two weeks.

Kapas, 26, won the 200m fly at last summer’s world championships by passing Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters. She clocked 2:06.78 to prevail by .17 of a second.

Kapas also took bronze in the Rio Olympic 800m freestyle won by Katie Ledecky.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.