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U.S. names Paralympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer

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Snowboarder Mike Schultz was voted U.S. flag bearer for the PyeongChang Paralympic Opening Ceremony on Friday (6 a.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Schultz, 36, is a medal favorite in his Paralympic debut in South Korea as this season’s World Cup champion in both of the Paralympic snowboard disciplines — banked slalom and snowboard cross.

The U.S. Paralympic team includes 74 athletes.

Schultz was a Winter X Games veteran snowmobile racer before a Dec. 13, 2008 race accident where he was thrown from his vehicle, resulting in the amputation of his left leg above the knee.

The Minnesota native engineered his own prosthetic design using bike shocks, a design that will also be used by other Paralympians in PyeongChang. Schultz founded his own company to serve adaptive athletes and veterans, BioDapt, Inc., and through that found snowboarding.

Schultz, who had racked up Summer and Winter X Games adaptive racing medals from 2009 through 2013, was asked why not compete in snowboarding, too. He took it up.

In 2017, he achieved an impressive double, winning his sixth Winter X Games adaptive snowmobiling title and then taking banked slalom snowboarding silver at the IPC World Championships.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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