U.S. Olympic Nordic combined, ski jumping trials preview, TV schedule

Getty Images
0 Comments

A new generation of U.S. Olympic hopefuls take flight at the Nordic combined and ski jumping trials in Park City, Utah, on Saturday and Sunday.

NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will air ski jumping trials coverage Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Nordic combined takes place Saturday.

A detailed schedule of both events is here.

Three athletes will qualify for the Olympic team at trials — the winner in each event. The rest of each team will be chosen in January, based on form this season and discretionary criteria.

The only U.S. Olympic medals in either sport in the last 90 years came in 2010, when veterans Bill DemongTodd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane led the way.

All are now retired.

Likewise, U.S. female ski jumping pioneers Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome, who helped the event gain Olympic inclusion for the first time in 2014, retired after competing in Sochi.

And in men’s ski jumping, nobody on the trials entry list owns Olympic experience.

So, who is worth watching?

Start with Nordic combined brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, who were part of a sixth-place team in Sochi. (The U.S. might not qualify a team event spot for PyeongChang and could have as few as two Nordic combined skiers overall at the Games.)

Bryan, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 4, picked up an individual fifth-place finish at the 2015 World Championships.

Then at the last World Cup stop, he matched his best individual World Cup finish (seventh) since before the Sochi Games.

Sarah Hendrickson, who wore bib No. 1 in Sochi as the first female Olympic ski jumper, continues to be the face of the U.S. program.

Hendrickson was a Sochi medal favorite after winning the 2013 World title, but she tore her right ACL and MCL less than six months before the Games and was fortunate to even make it to Russia. She finished 23rd.

Hendrickson suffered a second ACL tear in summer 2015 and underwent a complete ACL reconstruction in November 2015.

She returned as the U.S.’ top jumper last season, ranking 14th in the world, with Nita Englund two spots behind her.

“Life is so much easier without knee pain… only took 4 years,” Hendrickson tweeted Nov. 4, though she was 45th and 52nd in two World Cup events later that fall.

Young U.S. male ski jumpers give the team hope of its first top-30 Olympic finish since the 2002 Games.

Will Rhoads, 22, had career-best 21st- and 29th-place finishes at a World Cup stop earlier this month.

Kevin Bickner, 21, placed 15th in a ski flying event in March, the best World Cup result by an American man since 2003.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Broadcast schedule for all U.S. Olympic Trials

Gaon Choi breaks Chloe Kim record, youngest X Games snowboard halfpipe champion

Gaon Choi
Jamie Schwaberow/X Games
0 Comments

South Korean Gaon Choi broke Chloe Kim‘s record as the youngest X Games snowboard halfpipe champion, winning at age 14 on Saturday in Aspen, Colorado.

Choi, the world junior champion, landed three different 900s in her third of four runs to overtake two-time U.S. Olympian Maddie Mastro. She then landed a frontside 1080 in her fourth run.

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

Choi became the first Winter X Games medalist for South Korea, a nation with a best Olympic halfpipe finish of 14th. She is six months younger than Kim was when Kim won the first of her five X Games Aspen halfpipe titles in 2015.

“I began snowboarding because of Chloe Kim and now almost being near her level when she was 14, it feels weird that I can see a possibility that I would go beyond her some day,” Choi said through a translator, according to organizers. “I’m already starting to look forward to the next Olympics.”

Kim, the daughter of South Korean immigrants, posted that she has known Choi for almost a decade.

“I feel like a proud Mom,” she posted. “The future of snowboarding’s in good hands.”

Kim, the only woman to land back-to-back 1080s in a contest, is taking this season off after repeating as Olympic champion but plans to return ahead of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Mastro, who was 12th and 13th at the last two Olympics, landed her patented double crippler (two back flips) on two of her runs, but it wasn’t enough. She was the last woman to beat Kim at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Earlier, American Colby Stevenson earned his second X Games ski slopestyle title, one year after taking silver in ski big air’s Olympic debut. Stevenson, who was one millimeter from brain damage in a 2016 car crash, capped his first two of four runs with 1620s, according to commentators, taking the lead for good after the latter.

American Alex Hall, the Olympic slopestyle champion, was seventh.

Later, Zoe Atkin became the first British female skier to win an X Games title, taking the halfpipe in the absence of Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China. Atkin had two 720s in her fourth and final run to overtake Olympic bronze medalist Rachael Karker of Canada.

Atkin, the 20-year-old and Stanford student and younger sister of 2018 Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist Izzy Atkin, was ninth at the Olympics and never previously won an X Games medal.

Gu withdrew on Friday with a knee injury from a training crash.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Madison Chock, Evan Bates win historic U.S. ice dance title for figure skaters in their 30s

0 Comments

Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their fourth national ice dance title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and made all sorts of longevity history.

Chock and Bates, fourth at the Olympics and third at last March’s world championships, totaled 229.75 points between the rhythm dance and free dance. They prevailed by 22.29 over Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, the largest margin of victory in a U.S. ice dance since it was shortened from three programs to two in 2011.

“This is probably the best we’ve ever skated in our careers,” Bates said on NBC. “I think that’s the statement that we wanted to make.”

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko took bronze but are likely to be left off the three-couple team for March’s world championships in favor of Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, last year’s U.S. bronze medalists who planned to petition for a worlds spot after withdrawing before nationals citing mental health.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the top U.S. couple at the 2022 Olympics (bronze) and 2022 Worlds (silver), retired after last season.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Chock, 30, and Bates, 33, who are engaged, became the first dance couple in their 30s to win a U.S. title in the modern era (at least the last 50 years).

Chock and Bates made the nationals podium for an 11th consecutive year, one shy of the record for any discipline.

Bates, who last year became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 13 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that breaks the U.S. record for a single discipline that he shared with Michelle KwanNathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

Those records matter less to Chock and Bates than what they’re hoping is a career first in March: a world championships gold medal.

They earned silver or bronze a total of three times. All of the teams that beat them at last year’s Olympics and worlds aren’t competing this season, but Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier defeated Chock and Bates at December’s Grand Prix Final, which is a sort-of dress rehearsal for worlds.

“If we don’t win gold at worlds, we’ll be disappointed,” Bates, whose first senior nationals in 2008 came when new U.S. women’s singles champion Isabeau Levito was 10 months old, said earlier this month. “We’ve set the goal for ourselves in he past and haven’t met it yet.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!