Team event opens PyeongChang figure skating tonight

Patrick Chan
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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The only thing missing from Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan’s resume is an Olympic gold medal.

He’s won three world championships. Two grand prix finals. Twice he’s stood on the second step of an Olympic podium, an infuriating few inches from what would be the pinnacle of his career.

So even though the 27-year-old Chan is focused on the men’s competition at the Pyeongchang Games, he is also aware of the tremendous opportunity presented by the team event. It begins Friday with Canada favored to win gold after finishing second in its debut four years ago at the Sochi Games.

“The medal is what you make of it,” Chan said, when asked whether a team gold medal would in some way be lesser than an individual gold. “It may not be the same for every skater or another teammate, but for me at this point in my career, anything at this point is a bonus.”

Indeed, the way skaters are approaching the team competition varies widely.

There are those from Canada, the U.S. and the Olympic Athletes from Russia that are eyeing gold, or at least a spot on the podium. It’s an opportunity to start the Olympics on a high, and potentially build up momentum they can carry into the rest of the games.

NBCOlympics.com: Chan prioritizes team event as last chance at gold

Then there are those from France and Italy, countries that have medal hopefuls in individual events but not enough depth across the four disciplines to realistically compete for a team medal.

For them, it’s a chance to work out the kinks in a competitive environment, fine-tuning their own programs for what really matters in the coming days.

“We’re really focused on our personal event,” said Guillaume Cizeron, who with Gabrielle Papadakis are two-time ice dance world champions and among the favorites in that competition.

“I feel like the team event is a great opportunity for team spirit and what the games represent,” Cizeron said, “but our main focus is obviously the individual event.”

The powerhouse nations certainly seem to be putting more emphasis on the team event.

They’ve been closely guarding their lineups all week, a unique bit of gamesmanship for an otherwise individual sport, and have waited until the last possible moment to announce who will skate each event.

There is strategy in putting together the lineup — some individuals are better in short programs and others excel in the free skate. Plus, the pairs teams that are medal contenders must be cognizant of the fact that their individual event begins two days after the team event finishes.

NBCOlympics.com: Watch the team event (8 pm ET)

“We know that our country isn’t in the favorites to medal, so it makes things different,” Papadakis said. “Our main goal is the individual event. It may be different if we were going for a medal.”

Ten nations have qualified for the team competition, and each will send out skaters in each of the four disciplines in the short program. They receive points based on their finish — so margin of victory doesn’t matter — with the top five teams advancing to the free skate.

Medals will be awarded Monday after the final discipline, the ladies’ free skate.

“It was so much fun to be able to be part of the team event in Sochi, to compete as a team and not just as an individual athlete,” said Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond, a medal contender in the individual event.

“I’m focusing on my own programs,” she said, “but to have the team atmosphere in the kiss-and-cry, and the podium, it’s so incredible. And to be able to compete more times at the Olympics, I’m definitely not going to argue against it. I just love the team aspect of it.”

Her teammate, Gabrielle Daleman, was part of the Canadian team that won silver in Sochi.

NBCOlympics.com: Daleman’s road to PyeongChang included surgery, bullying

“It was a completely new event for all of us,” Daleman said. “One night we were standing on the podium and the next night we were competing again. We had just won a medal, we just competed. It was weird. But I think we’ll be more ready, ready to compete as much as necessary.”

That appears to be the prevailing sentiment to the team competition.

Sure, it doesn’t carry quite the same prestige as individual events, and only a handful of nations will truly take it seriously. But the opportunity to compete in the Olympics is rare, and few skaters are willing to throw away the chance to have that feeling one more time.

“We are a beautiful team that has been competing together for so many years. Most of us are 30 and we are very proud of that,” Italy’s Carolina Kostner said. “Most of us have seen each other grow up, basically, and support each other along the years with changes and everything.

“So we’re actually quite motivated to take it on together,” Kostner added. “I’m very excited and very honored to represent my country.”

 

Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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