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What to watch at U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday

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The U.S. women’s figure skating champion will be crowned Friday night, live on NBC and streaming on NBCOlympics.com.

Bradie Tennell takes her short-program lead into the free skate in San Jose, Calif. She’s followed in the standings by 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu and 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen.

Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner sits fifth, needing a strong free skate to make her case for PyeongChang.

Coverage runs from 8-11 p.m. ET.

WOMEN: Stream Link | Start List/Results

The U.S. Olympic team of three women will be chosen after the free skate and announced Saturday morning. A committee will look at results from the last year, so the team won’t necessarily be the top three finishers Friday night.

Also Friday, the ice dance competition begins with the short dance from 4-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and streaming on NBCOlympics.com.

The favorites for the three U.S. Olympic spots are clear, as the U.S. has three of the top six couples in the world (and nobody else in the top 15), led by two-time defending national champs Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.

ICE DANCE: Stream Link | Start List/Results

The key skaters going Friday:

Short Dance
Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 4:40 p.m. ET
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 4:53 p.m.
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani — 5:41 p.m.

Women’s Free Skate
Mariah Bell — 10:03 p.m.
Ashley Wagner — 10:11 p.m.
Angela Wang — 10:19 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu — 10:28 p.m.
Karen Chen — 10:36 p.m.
Bradie Tennell — 10:44 p.m.

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PREVIEWS: Men | Women | DancePairsTV Schedule | Olympic Selection

Date Time (ET) Program Network
Wednesday 11 p.m.-1 Women’s Short NBCSN | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
Thursday 4-5 p.m. Pairs Short Olympic Channel | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
5-6:30 p.m. Pairs Short NBCSN | STREAM
8:30 p.m.-12 Men’s Short NBCSN | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
Friday 4-6 p.m. Short Dance NBCSN | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
8-11 p.m. Women’s Free NBC | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
Saturday 4-6 p.m. Pairs Free NBC | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
8-11 p.m. Men’s Free NBCSN | STREAM | SKATE ORDER
Sunday 3-6 p.m. Free Dance NBC | STREAM
Jan. 13 4 p.m. Exhibition Gala NBC | STREAM

 

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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