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Brighton Zeuner, 13, already an Olympic skateboarding medal threat

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Her name is hard to forget. Her accolades, at age 13, are already worth remembering.

Brighton Zeuner is one of the early medal favorites for skateboarding’s Olympic debut in 2020.

There will be two disciplines in Tokyo — park and street — and Zeuner is an established force in the former. Park takes place in a dome-shaped bowl with a variety of transitions, jumps and complex curves.

“I’m not going to be mad if I don’t win [the Olympics],” Zeuner said in a phone interview ahead of competing at Dew Tour in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday. “Being there in general is a huge accomplishment.”

NBC will air Dew Tour coverage July 7-8.

Zeuner, with 125,000 Instagram followers and blonde hair streaming as far as her kidneys, is promoted as a headliner for good reason.

In 2016, she became the youngest woman to compete at an X Games at 11. Then she won the inaugural Vans Park Series world title. In 2017, she became the youngest X Games champion.

Credit her childhood backyard. A large vert ramp was installed behind the family pool, palm trees and a sign reading “No scooters allowed.” Not only did Zeuner and older brother Jack hone their skills there, but folks from the area also stopped by for sessions and the occasional refueling dinner.

When your neighborhood is Encinitas, Calif., the locals include skateboarding gods.

“The kind of the crew that she runs with — Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill,” Dew Tour announcer Chris Cote said. “She runs with these classic, legendary skaters. You see the translation that she has been soaking up all this knowledge from them.”

Hawk visited the Zeuner home a few times, including for the last session before she recently moved.

“I think he asked [to come] because he was filming,” Zeuner said, “We were like, of course you can. I was fanning out.”

Zeuner says everything started happening for her at age 8. At a small contest in Arizona, she finished third out of four girls (the others all older, “big sisters,” she said) and landed her first sponsor, the Original Betty Skateboard Company. She later beat her brother in a contest, though Jack was already phasing out of competition and into filming.

More recently, she skated at X Games in braces and a Red Bull helmet, has been featured on “Nightline” and in The New York Times and is up for Queen of Swag, a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award. The other nominees are Ibtihaj Muhammad, Jamie Anderson, Michelle Wie, Serena Williams, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Sydney Leroux.

Zeuner said life’s biggest obstacle wasn’t the time she faceplanted and had to dislodge her lip from her braces. Rather, it has been a three-year struggle to land a 540, thus far unsuccessful.

“It’s definitely an annoying trick that I’m mad about,” she said. 

It might be necessary at the Olympics.

Zeuner faces competition both older — 25-year-old Nora Vasconcellos of Massachusetts — and a batch of early teens — notably fellow 13-year-old Sabre Norris of “Ellen” fame. Norris’ dad is Justin Norris, who beat Michael Phelps to a bronze medal in Phelps’ first Olympic race, the Sydney 2000 200m butterfly.

“The top 10 is constantly in flux,” Cote said. “They all kind of take turns for who’s the best on any given day.”

Norris landed a 540 two weeks ago to qualify July’s X Games, where she will face Zeuner.

“If I be real about it I know my odds for success are kinda crap,” was posted on Norris’ Instagram. “I have zero experience, chiari malformation, I’m a surfer not a skater and I get so badly homesick I can’t eat.”

Zeuner refused to single out a rival but thrives in competition. Cote called her “Terminator.” To battle boredom, Zeuner writes song lyrics (“jazzy beats,” specifically), designs clothes and shoes and listens to Tyler, the Creator and Kali Uchis.

“Their lyrics are more than a song,” Zeuner said. “It’s a story.”

Zeuner already has one of her own.

NBC Olympics researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report.

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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