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Nathan Chen, Knierims land U.S. contingent in second place after team event

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Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen made his Olympic debut in PyeongChang as part of the U.S. quad competing in the team event on Thursday night. Both Chen and two-time U.S. national pair champions Alexa Scimeca Knierm and Chris Knierim contributed their short programs.

Chen scored 80.61 points in after his short program, set to “Nemesis” by Benjamin Clementine. Chen executed the first quadruple flip ever seen in Olympic competition, before tacking on a double toeloop in combination. His planned a second quad jump, a quad toe, but doubled it instead. It was invalidated, and then he fell on his triple Axel attempt.

NBCOlympics.com: Nathan Chen finishes fourth with a fall in team event short

He finished in fourth place in the phase, and earned Team USA seven points. On the NBC broadcast, he said he was disappointed with his performance and because he felt he “let the team down.”

In first place is Shoma Uno, who is often seen as Japan’s No. 2 man behind reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Earlier in the week, Hanyu officially opted out of the team event to allow for the maximum recovery time after he injured his ankle in November. Japan is not expected to earn a medal in the team event.

NBCOlympics.com: What is the figure skating team event?

Uno cracked the 100-point barrier with his first place score of 103.25 points. He earned 10 points for Japan. Alexei Bychenko from Israel is in second place and earned nine points for his country.

Three-time world champion Patrick Chan from Canada finished third overall, earning eight points for his country.

South Korea’s skater, Cha Jun-Hwan, made his Olympic debut by skating in front of a home audience. He scored his country five points by finishing in sixth place on home ice.

Mikhail Kolyada, competing on behalf of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, finished in eighth place and earned the team three points. The Russian squad is widely seen as a medal threat in this event, having won gold in the team event the first time it was contested in 2014.

The sole U.S. pair team at the PyeongChang Olympics took the ice later Thursday. The married U.S. pair, the Knierims, were nearly flawless after their short program. Their “Come What May” performance scored 69.75 points.

Later Thursday, European gold medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov finished first in the pair event, representing Olympic Athletes from Russia. The pair team picked up 10 points for OAR/Russia. Two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford followed for second place, earning Canada nine points. The pair representing Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, finished third and earned eight points.

The sole U.S. pair team at the PyeongChang Olympics took the ice later Thursday. The married U.S. pair, the Knierims, were nearly flawless after their short program. Their “Come What May” performance scored 69.75 points and earned seven points for Team USA.

NBCOlympics.com: For the Knierims, the Olympic journey is bigger than themselves

The Gangneung venue is where the Knierims returned to competition exactly a year ago, after Scimeca Knierim recovered from multiple abdominal injuries.

The short program phase only includes a field of 10 skaters in the team event. Each earns points for their country, and after each skating discipline finishes the short program phase, the bottom five teams will be eliminated. The top five teams advance and have one entrant perform their free skate or free dance.

Team standings after the men’s and pairs’ short programs:
1. Canada – 17 points
2. United States – 14 points
3. Japan – 13 points
4. Olympic Athletes from Russia – 13 points
5. Israel – 11 points
6. China – 10 points
7. Italy – 10 points
8. Germany – 10 points
9. South Korea – 6 points
10. France – 6 points

Chloé Dygert wanted to be Steve Prefontaine. Then Larry Bird. Now, her coach.

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Chloé Dygert is the U.S.’ top cyclist, an Olympic medalist and world champion in line to race on the track and the road at the Tokyo Games.

To get to this point — leading the American contingent at the world track cycling championships this week — Dygert was kicked off a soccer team, bribed by her father and, when she thought her career was over, enrolled in 5 a.m. classes to get back on the bike.

“I had no interest in being a cyclist. I did not want to be a cyclist,” she said. “The funny thing is, my dad kept getting me bikes.”

It began in Brownsburg, Ind., a 25,000-person town 15 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Dygert had an older brother, younger brother and a BMX dirt bike track on a 4.5-acre property.

She played soccer, but was moved from the girls’ team to the boys. Dygert developed physically earlier than the other girls. And, “I was a little too mean and aggressive,” she said.

She played basketball but broke too many bones — her own and those of other girls. “Not on purpose,” she said, “but I was just so much bigger and naturally so much stronger.”

Dygert ran cross-country, too, but none of those sports worked out.

“I was going to be Steve Prefontaine,” she said of the fabled 1972 Olympian. “I had some injuries, and I started playing basketball. I was going to be Larry Bird. I had some more injuries, and cycling was just kind of my go-to.”

Dygert, at first reluctant, picked up cycling at the urging of her father, David, a mountain biker. She received bikes for Christmas and her New Year’s birthday, but it wasn’t until later, when she was 15, that her father’s words changed her life.

That summer, when Dygert needed a shoulder surgery from a basketball injury, she went for a ride at a local park with her father. David marveled.

“He said, ‘Chloe, I don’t think a girl your age should be able to put out the power that you’re putting out,'” Dygert remembered. “That kind of stuck with me and got me into wanting to ride a little bit more and seeing where I could go with it.”

David lured her: a pair of Oakleys if Dygert won at her first major competition. She entered junior nationals and grabbed a victory.

“That’s kind of what gave me the motivation to keep going,” she said. “It took me a while to actually love the sport. It definitely was not an interest that I had. But I thrive on winning. I love to win.”

Dygert pursued cycling, but she didn’t stop basketball. Everything changed when she tore an ACL on the court at age 17, a nine-month injury. She never returned to competitive basketball, but she also lost motivation to get back on the bike. Again, David urged her. One last time.

She joined the cycling team at Marian University, a private Catholic school in Indianapolis. David signed her up for 5 a.m. classes.

“I’m still not happy about it,” she said. “I got really disciplined.”

And reinvigorated. The freshman Dygert noticed in a power booster class that her wattage was impressive.

“If it wasn’t for that and the structure and the discipline that I had gotten from that and my dad, I would not be here,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by, I’m just so thankful for that and for him.”

Dygert dropped out after that first fall semester to focus on a cycling career. That winter, she won a world title with the U.S. team pursuit and was named to become the youngest female U.S. Olympic track cyclist in history.

“I see myself being a Kristin Armstrong, following in her footsteps, being a good all-around rider and a very good time trialist,” Dygert said before earning team pursuit silver at the Rio Olympics, according to The Associated Press.

Armstrong earned her third Olympic road time trial title in Rio, a day before turning 43. She retired and transitioned from Dygert’s mentor to her coach. Dygert recently moved to Armstrong’s native Idaho.

On the eve of September’s world road cycling championships time trial, Armstrong told Dygert to make sure she hurt more than any other rider on the 18-mile course. Dygert obeyed. She went out and won by 92 seconds, the largest margin in history, to become the youngest world champion ever in the event. She collapsed onto the pavement getting off her bike.

“I didn’t race with a power meter,” Dygert said that day, “and I think that really helped not restricting myself, just kind of going as fast as I could the entire time and not really have anything to gauge it off of.”

It qualified Dygert for the Tokyo Olympics on the road. The track team hasn’t been named, but Dygert will surely anchor a new team pursuit quartet. The U.S. has never won an Olympic women’s track title, but the pursuit has been its trademark event — world titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Olympic silver medals in 2012 and 2016.

The only woman on both of those Olympic teams retired (Sarah Hammer).

The cycling community was floored when Kelly Catlin, on all three world title teams with Dygert, committed suicide last March at age 23.

“It’s definitely hard not having her there, but we will carry her legacy on,” Dygert said. “She will be with us every step of the way when we win gold in Tokyo.”

The U.S. women’s team pursuit finished seventh at last year’s worlds without Catlin and without Dygert, who sat out nearly a year after a May 2018 concussion from a road crash. Dygert wondered if she might not be able to come back from the head injury. Expectations were tempered when Dygert and a new team entered a November World Cup in Belarus.

A coach predicted nothing faster than 4 minutes, 17 seconds. They clocked 4:13 and won in what Dygert believed was the U.S.’ second-fastest time since the Rio Games.

“We’ve never raced together before,” Dygert said. “We didn’t really know what we would be able to do.”

Dygert is bidding to race in three events in Tokyo — road race (July 26), road time trial (July 29) and team pursuit (Aug. 3-4). People compare combining the road and the track to training for both the sprints and the marathon. The plurality of the focus will be on the time trial and follow the path set by Armstrong.

“We’re going to be smart about which event that we choose to be full gas for so my fitness is still there for all the other events,” Dygert said. “Being fit for the time trial will also correlate for the track.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

U.S. women’s hockey roster named for world championship

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Hilary KnightKendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker are among 14 PyeongChang Olympians on the 23-player U.S. roster for the world women’s hockey championship that begins March 31 in Nova Scotia.

Every major star from the Olympic champion team returns save captain Meghan Duggan (pregnant) and twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson (childbirths in December and January).

The U.S. won the last five world titles dating to 2013, though last year’s came with controversy in the final against host Finland.

Finland, after upsetting Canada in the semifinals, forced the U.S. into overtime. The Finns scored and celebrated before the goal was overturned due to non-incidental goaltender interference. The U.S. went on to win in a shootout, just as it did in the PyeongChang Olympic final with Canada.

The U.S. coach since PyeongChang has been Bob Corkum, a 12-season NHL defenseman who succeeded Olympic head coach Robb Stauber.

Wisconsin sophomore forward Britta Curl is in line to become the first player born in the 2000s to participate in an Olympics or worlds for the U.S.

The full U.S. roster for worlds (*=PyeongChang Olympian):

Goalies
Alex Cavallini*
Aerin Frankel
Maddie Rooney*

Defenders
Cayla Barnes*
Kacey Bellamy*
Megan Bozek
Savannah Harmon
Megan Keller*
Emily Matheson*
Lee Stecklein*

Forwards
Hannah Brandt*
Dani Cameranesi*
Alex Carpenter
Jesse Compher
Kendall Coyne Schofield*
Britta Curl
Brianna Decker*
Amanda Kessel*
Hilary Knight*
Kelly Pannek*
Abby Roque
Hayley Scamurra
Grace Zumwinkle

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MORE: U.S. Olympic hockey captain plans post-pregnancy return