Dana Vollmer unlikely to compete at swimming nationals

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Dana Vollmer, who earned a medal of every color in Rio 17 months after childbirth, said she will “most likely not” swim at the U.S. Championships in late July as she works her way back from her second pregnancy.

“I’ve taken a step back from intense pool training and have been focused on strength and retraining movement patterns that I know will improve my overall health and my strength in the water,” was posted on the seven-time Olympic medalist’s social media on Saturday.

If Vollmer misses nationals in Irvine, Calif., she can not qualify for the next two major international meets — the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo in August and the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

“It’s unfortunate that next years [sic] World Championship team is selected this summer as I expect my racing to be in full swing again by then, but I am confident in my plan to be the best at 2020!” was posted on Vollmer’s social media.

Vollmer, 30, has raced in one meet since having her second child, son Ryker, on July 4. That was in Texas in January. The 2012 Olympic 100m butterfly champion considered entering meets in Mesa, Ariz., and Santa Clara, Calif., this spring but prioritized exacting her training regimen as a mother of two boys aged 3 and younger.

Come 2020, Vollmer will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic female swimmer except Dara Torres. Torres became the oldest in 2000 (when Vollmer was the youngest swimmer at trials at age 12, collecting autographs), then shattered her age record in 2008, earning three silver medals at age 41 with a 2-year-old daughter.

In Vollmer’s absence, the top U.S. female butterflier has been Kelsi Dahlia, who took 100m fly bronze at the 2017 Worlds. But everyone is chasing Swede Sarah Sjöström, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder who has the four fastest times in the world this year.

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My focus is on being my best at 2020. The past couple weeks have been very exciting in terms of figuring out better ways to move. I had a bad back injury fall of 2004 that had me dealing with pain through 2010. It’s been a journey seeing how my body adapted to back pain and learned to work without utilizing many major muscles that I linked with increased back pain. Now, 8 yrs later, we are still uncovering layers. Same process with my shoulders after years of swimming. I’ve taken a step back from intense pool training and have been focused on strength and retraining movement patterns that I know will improve my overall health and my strength in the water. I’ve been so thankful to be injury free in these later years of my swimming career and I get so excited learning how to better use my body and ways to apply that to my strokes! I will not be competing in Santa Clara this weekend and most likely not at Nationals. It’s unfortunate that next years World Championship team is selected this summer as I expect my racing to be in full swing again by then, but I am confident in my plan to be the best at 2020!

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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