Nathan Chen tops Skate America short program

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Nathan Chen is so far making the most of his fall recess from Yale.

The world champion and freshman student passed his first test of the Grand Prix season — the Skate America short program in Everett, Wash., about 3,000 miles from campus.

Chen took it easy Friday night, attempting one quadruple jump rather than two (and stepping out of the landing of an under-rotated quad flip), but still tallied 90.58 points and leads by 8.49.

It doesn’t challenge the top scores in the world this young season, but it was plenty enough against this field lacking any other Olympic or world championships medalists.

“Hell of a lot better than midterms,” Chen told Andrea Joyce on NBC Sports Gold. “This is where my comfort is.”

He leads three-time Czech Olympian Michal Březina going into Saturday’s free skate (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold) looking to be the first U.S. man to repeat at Skate America since Timothy Goebel in 2001.

Fellow U.S. Olympian Vincent Zhou is sixth (76.38) with two quads but with under-rotations on all three of his jumping passes.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Chen, a disappointing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, hasn’t lost on American ice in nearly three years.

That doesn’t figure to change Saturday, even though the 19-year-old faced plenty of obstacles this fall: a full Ivy League class schedule, training more or less on his own with coach Rafael Arutunian back in Southern California and a pesky cold that affected him for two weeks leading up to his season debut two weeks ago.

Chen fell three times in one program for the first time in his senior career at the Japan Open on Oct. 6, a free skate-only event that can be viewed as an exhibition.

On the more competitive Grand Prix series, it helps that neither of Chen’s top rivals — Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, the Olympic gold and silver medalists — will go up against him until December’s Grand Prix Final at the earliest.

Earlier Friday, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took the lead in a messy pairs’ short program from top to bottom. The two-time world medalists tallied 71.24 points despite Tarasova under-rotating her part of side-by-side triple toe loops.

The three U.S. teams all counted a fall and sit fourth, fifth and seventh. Olympians Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim are in fifth after downgraded side-by-side triple Salchows and a step-sequence fall for Scimeca Knierim.

A U.S. pair hasn’t won a Grand Prix series event in 12 years.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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NFL star Jared Allen’s team beats Olympic champions at curling nationals

Jared Allen
Getty
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Retired NFL star Jared Allen was part of a curling team that beat 2018 Olympic champion John Shuster to open the U.S. Championships in Denver on Sunday night.

Allen, who retired from the NFL in 2016 and picked up curling in 2018, is on 2010 Olympian Jason Smith‘s team, which beat Shuster’s team 10-6 in the first game of round-robin play.

After all eight teams play each other, the top four advance to Friday’s playoffs. The winner of Saturday’s final is national champion and is expected to be the U.S. team for the world championship in Ottawa in April.

Allen, 40, said before nationals that he is eyeing the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” Allen, who was on a different team at the last nationals in 2021 that went 0-9, told the newspaper. “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through. Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”

How big of an upset was Sunday’s result? Ken Pomeroy rated Smith’s team fifth in the eight-team field before the tournament, while he had Shuster’s team second behind Korey Dropkin.

Shuster’s team won the last three nationals that they entered, plus the last two Olympic Trials since the bulk of the team formed for the 2015 season. Shuster went 11-0 at his last nationals in 2020, then 11-2 at the 2022 Olympic Trials, where the younger Dropkin beat him twice but ultimately lost in the finals series.

Allen was first linked to serious curling in February 2018 via U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne on a Minnesota ESPN radio show. Nanne said Allen told him at a dinner.

“[Allen] says, ‘I’m giving myself four years to make the Olympic curling team,’” said Nanne, a 1968 U.S. Olympian.

Allen, along with retired quarterback Marc Bulger, first played on a team with 2010 Olympian John Benton and fellow veteran curler Hunter Clawson.

Allen’s new team includes Smith, who played on the 2010 Olympic team skipped by Shuster, Clawson and Dominik Maerki.

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U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

ALPINE WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit