Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski
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Why Tara and Johnny are pumped for the Olympics

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Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have been to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but for one month, every four years, another city can say they too own that title. This year, that city is PyeongChang, South Korea – home of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and a place where many athletes are hoping to make their dreams come true.

The figure skating competition gets underway Thursday, Feb. 8 live in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com. Olympians-turned-analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir can hardly contain their excitement.

Lipinski said in a recent NBC media call that she was as excited about PyeongChang 2018 as when she struck gold at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

“It’s the moment that you walk into an Olympic arena that it feels so much bigger than any other event that I’ve ever participated in, competed in or have been an analyst for.”

Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir has been a broadcaster at three Games, and said every one of them feels special in their own way.

NBCOlympics.com: Watch/stream the team event men’s, pairs’ short program

​”I think it’s a huge honor and privilege to be able to shape the stories of young athletes who compete in these sports that many people only pay attention to every four years.”

Unlike some other sports in the Olympics where people can watch them pretty frequently, this is figure skating’s big stage. All eyes will be on the athletes, this is their time to shine.

Tara and Johnny know firsthand how these athletes are feeling. The nerves, the excitement, stepping out onto the ice for the first time. They’ve been there, done that.

“We’ve been those skaters in the little niche sport that people only watch every four years,” Weir said. “So, for us, it’s a big responsibility and a major honor to be able to craft those stories.”

Now instead of nailing that triple Axel, their responsibility turns to telling the viewers at home the stories behind these athletes, teaching them about the sport and why it is so unique.

“We’re that unique sport where you are judged half on your technical skill and half on your artistic skill,” Lipinski added. “Especially when it comes to something like artistry that can be a very personal preference.”

Not only are Tara and Johnny excited for the competition to get underway, but they are excited to be working with one another.

“That’s why she’s been so great as a broadcaster and as an athlete. She makes me up my game which really means that Tara’s a great partner,” Weir said of his friend and fellow podcast host.

Lipinski summed it up:

“The Olympics are magic, and I can’t wait to be part of it.”

Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.