How the U.S. Olympic figure skating team is chosen

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The U.S. Olympic figure skating team is chosen entirely by committees. It’s not as simple as taking the top finishers from the national championships.

The team of three men, three women, three ice dance couples and one pair will be announced on Jan. 6-7 at the U.S. Championships in San Jose.

The plan is to have three different team announcements within 24 hours of the conclusion of each discipline. The planned announcement schedule (all times Eastern):

Women — Saturday, 8 a.m.
Men — Sunday, 11:15 a.m.
Pair — Sunday, 12:45 p.m.
Ice Dance — Sunday, 8:55 p.m.

A different committee chooses the athletes for each discipline, but the criteria is the same across the board.

From U.S. Figure Skating:

Team members will be selected by U.S. Figure Skating’s International Committee, taking into consideration the results of events in the following order of importance:

2018 U.S. Championships
2017 Grand Prix Final
2017 World Championships
2017 Grand Prix Series
2017 Four Continents Championships
2017 U.S. Championships
2017 World Junior Championships
2017 Grand Prix Final

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Furthermore, U.S. Figure Skating broke down competitions into tiers in order of importance:

Tier 1
2018 U.S. Championships
2017 Grand Prix Final
2017 World Championships

Tier 2
2017 Grand Prix Series
2017 Four Continents Championships

Tier 3
2017 Challenger Series
2017 U.S. Championships
2017 World Junior Championships
2017 Junior Grand Prix Final

This criteria is what makes defending U.S. champions Nathan Chen and the ice dance couple of Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani heavy favorites to make the Olympic team regardless of what they do at nationals.

Chen won this year’s Grand Prix Final, both of his Grand Prix Series events and the Four Continents Championships.

The Shibutani siblings took bronze at both the Grand Prix Final and world championships this year (the only U.S. medalists at worlds) and won both of their Grand Prix Series events.

No other U.S. skaters in any disciplines earned world or Grand Prix Final medals in 2017 or won any Grand Prix Series events.

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MORE: U.S. Figure Skating Champs broadcast schedule

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”