Kaetlyn Osmond wins Skate Canada; Ashley Wagner rallies (video)

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Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond won Skate Canada, despite a fall to close her free skate on Saturday.

Ashley Wagner rallied for bronze, up from seventh place after Friday’s short program.

Osmond and Wagner, the last two world silver medalists behind Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, were joined on the podium by Russian Maria Sotskova.

The other two Americans — Courtney Hicks and U.S. champion Karen Chen — were fourth and seventh, respectively.

Japan’s Shoma Uno, the world silver medalist, won the men’s title with a score only one man has bettered this season. That man is also Uno. American Jason Brown benefited from three-time world champ Patrick Chan‘s meltdown to take silver.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the ice dance with a world-record score, continuing their undefeated run since returning from a two-year break last season. They are favorites to win a second Olympic title in February.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford rallied to overtake short-program leaders Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany for their fourth straight Skate Canada pairs title.

Full Skate Canada scores are here.

Osmond won her first Grand Prix title since prevailing in her Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada five years ago at the age of 16. She remains one of, if not the top threat to Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost in two years.

Wagner landed six triple jumps in her “Moulin Rouge” free skate. The bronze gives her a chance to make December’s six-woman Grand Prix Final, which will determine the PyeongChang Olympic medal favorites.

Wagner will likely make the Grand Prix Final if she wins Skate America on Thanksgiving weekend.

No other U.S. woman has a realistic shot at the Grand Prix Final.

Chen had trouble fully rotating jumps in her free skate, continuing her struggles in Grand Prix events. She also did not have a triple-triple combination in either program at Skate Canada.

Chen, 18, surprised to win the U.S. title last season — and then surprised even more by finishing fourth at worlds — but has never finished better than fifth in five Grand Prix starts.

The three-woman U.S. Olympic team will be named after nationals in January. Selections will be made based off not only nationals standings, but also results from the previous two seasons.

That makes this fall’s Grand Prix season key. The top four finishers from last season’s nationals have all finished their first of two starts this Grand Prix season. Hicks, 12th at last season’s nationals, had her one and only scheduled start this week.

Their scores:

Mariah Bell — 188.56 (Rostelecom Cup, sixth place)
Ashley Wagner — 183.94 (Skate Canada, third place)
Courtney Hicks — 182.57 (Skate Canada, fourth place)
Mirai Nagasu — 178.25 (Rostelecom Cup, ninth place)
Karen Chen — 170.40 (Skate Canada, seventh place)

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with two-time world champion Javier Fernandez headlining Cup of China. A full broadcast schedule is here.

Skate Canada
Women
Gold: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 212.91
Silver: Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 192.52
Bronze: Ashley Wagner (USA) — 183.94
4. Courtney Hicks (USA) — 182.57
7. Karen Chen (USA) — 170.40

Men
Gold: Shoma Uno (JPN) — 301.10
Silver: Jason Brown (USA) — 261.14
Bronze: Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 250.06

Ice Dance
Gold: Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 199.86 WR
Silver: Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 190.01
Bronze: Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 189.43
4. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) — 165.20

Pairs
Gold: Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 222.22
Silver: Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 215.66
Bronze: Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 214.37
7. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 172.95

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MORE: Will Virtue, Moir bid farewell at Olympics?

10 takeaways from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Here, the NBC Sports figure skating contributors reflect on the standout moments of the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Nathan Chen and Alysa Liu of course come to mind, though there were plenty of other moments to remark upon along the way. 

Women

1. Alysa Liu proved that she could do it again. She validated her insistence that there was no more pressure in successfully defending a title compared to winning her first title. 

Plus, the amusement of seeing the 4-foot-10 14-year-old needing help ascending the top step of the awards podium doesn’t get old either. Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell helped hoist her for the second year in a row. Liu next competes at world juniors, where she will take on a formidable pair of Russian “K’s”: Kamila Valieva and Ksenia Sinitsyna, both of whom outscored her on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. To win the crown, Liu may need a fully rotated quadruple Lutz, something that eluded her in Greensboro.

2. Speaking of Bell, she comes out of the championships with her already-improving confidence another notch higher after the free skate of her life and her best nationals finish ever, a silver medal. In tears before she even hit her final pose, she deservedly got an overwhelming standing ovation.

When asked how she felt about being the No. 1 senior U.S. woman, she said, “It’s a very special feeling. I haven’t had that before in my career, so that was awesome. The coolest thing about it was how into it the crowd was.” 

Now, let the calculations begin: can Bell and Tennell gain three U.S. women’s spots for next season’s world championships? To do so, the sum of their placements at the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships cannot be greater than 13 (for example, sixth and seventh).

3. Rounding out the memorable moments of the women’s event were the returns of Olympians Karen Chen and Gracie Gold. Chen, the 2017 national champion, missed the entirety of last season with a right foot stress fracture, and now is a freshman at Cornell. She finished fourth, and gained an assignment at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships early next month. With her competitive juices flowing again, Chen told reporters she was considering taking a gap year from college.

Two-time U.S. champion Gold, of course, triumphed simply by qualifying for her first national championships since 2017 after time away from the sport for treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. After a mediocre short program, Gold did a respectable free skate, and the crowd gave her a standing ovation, an emotional reward that left her with grateful tears. It moved Gold, who finished 12th, to vow she would continue her comeback for at least another season.

Men

4. Nathan Chen’s fourth straight U.S. title puts him in the company of five men since World War II, all of whom won Olympic gold medals, with Brian Boitano (85-88) the most recent. Chen, a Yale sophomore, was the first to do it in the IJS and quadruple jump eras (he went six-for-six in quads in the two programs), and the fourth came after a case of the flu bad enough he could practice only intermittently the first two weeks of January. “I don’t know anybody who could recover and do what he did after that sickness,” coach Rafael Arutunian said of Chen.

5. Tomoki Hiwatashi’s continued improvement: two clean programs with three clean quads for the bronze medal. His showmanship, including Russian split jumps, are to die for. Last season, Hiwatashi finished a surprise fourth at nationals but had disappointing 10th and fifth places in his debut competitions on the senior Grand Prix debut. The 2019 world junior champion has put himself into the mix for a 2022 Olympic team spot — if he can improve his consistency. 

6. Except for that pesky quad, Jason Brown put it all together at nationals for the first time since 2014. If he can execute all the elements as brilliantly as he did in Greensboro, a clean quad might put him in bronze medal contention at the 2020 World Championships, given the consistent inconsistency of all the top men after Chen and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu.

7. In the past month, Vincent Zhou turned his life inside out, taking a leave from Brown University to focus on skating after completing the first semester of his freshman year and switching coaches to Lee Barkell and Lori Nichol in Toronto. Despite that upheaval and little intense training, the reigning world bronze medalist and 2019 U.S. silver medalist had two solid performances to finish fourth, strategically limiting his quads to one in each program. Although Zhou had skipped the Grand Prix season, his choice as a world team member over Hiwatashi was totally justified under the selection criteria in use.

Ice dance

8. Madison Chock and Evan Bates made ice dance — and figure skating — history when they became the first U.S. skater, couple or pair team to go five years between national titles since the 1920s. They topped two duos they train with, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, to win their first title since 2015, also won in Greensboro. Their widely acclaimed slithering “Snake Charmer” free dance likely sets them up to glide to the world championship podium, but another showdown with Hubbell and Donohue awaits at Four Continents.

Pairs

9. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson had a breakthrough moment in the pairs’ event with one of the most memorable free skates in the last 20 years. Calalang’s joyous disbelief was palpable when she and Johnson got their score (146.01, the highest ever at nationals) for a program that had the crowd out of its seats before it even ended

“In my head, I’m like, ‘We got 119 at Skate Canada. We got 120-something at Warsaw.’ So, I was like, ‘Okay, we did both jumps… maybe 130,” she said, recalling her mental play-by-play. “Then it’s 140. Ohmigod, I’ve never dreamed of getting this score. I didn’t think it was possible.” 

Added Johnson: “No one can take that moment away from us.” 

Especially poignant words as Calalang and Johnson were passed over in favor of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc for the world championships teams. Calalang and Johnson are slated to participate at Four Continents, where they can continue to build a body of work that will impress U.S. Figure Skating’s International Selection Committee next time around.

10. Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim won their third U.S. pair title in Greensboro, joining such company as John Zimmerman and Kyoko Ina, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, and Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard. The couple skated a clean and memorable short program to “At Last,” including side-by-side triple toe loops. In the free skate, though, Knierim fell on his triple toe and the skaters doubled their planned triple Salchows. Despite their superior triple twist and lifts, in order to crack the top five in the world, Scimeca Knierim and Knierim need to get consistent on their jumps, and the California-based skaters are working with Arutunian to do so.

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U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Full Results | Women’s | Ice dance | Pairs | Men’s | Worlds roster

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.

China’s first Winter X Games postponed due to coronavirus

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A Winter X Games competition due to be held in Chongli, China, next month has been postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.

“Due to the ongoing coronavirus concerns, the X Games Chongli 2020 event will be postponed until a later date,” organizers announced via Twitter. “The safety of our athletes, staff and spectators is our top priority, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

The competition would have been the first Winter X Games held in China. Shanghai has hosted many X Games in the summer, including a event last June.

As with an Alpine skiing World Cup event that was canceled Wednesday, the X Games were due to take place at a 2022 Olympic venue, Chongli’s Secret Garden ski report. The venue hosted a World Cup snowboard event in December.

READ: First Alpine World Cup in China canceled

Several of the most decorated X Games and Olympic athletes, including two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson, were scheduled to compete in China.

The coronavirus outbreak has also affected qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics, with boxing and women’s soccer tournaments moved from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Asia-Oceania boxing qualifiers will be held March 3-11 in Amman, Jordan, with coverage on the Olympic Channel. The women’s soccer qualifiers, including traditional power China and a strong Australian team, were originally moved to Nanjing but then moved to Sydney, Australia.

China’s team has arrived in Australia but is under quarantine, putting the start of the qualifiers in doubt.

Aspen hosted the biggest X Games competition of the winter last week. Another X Games is scheduled for March 7-8 in Norway.

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