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Mariah Bell focused on the big picture ahead of NHK Trophy

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Mariah Bell brushed off not making the Olympic team. Her eyes are on January’s nationals, where she wants to be U.S. champion, and on the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“Looking forward another four years, it’s my goal to be on that Olympic team,” she told NBC Olympic Research at the start of her season. “This year, not making the team, it’s not a huge deal. It’s just taking all this experience to help me get there four years from now.”

She’s viewing this season as a “fresh start” because it’s just the beginning of the new quadrennial. She had a strong showing and finished fourth at September’s Nebelhorn and was fourth at Skate Canada.

She skates next at NHK Trophy in Japan this weekend. NBC Sports Gold will live stream every men’s, ladies, pairs’ and dance programs.

After her tour of the Grand Prix circuit, her focus is nationals.

“My top goal is to be national champion. As I lead up to nationals I think I can do really well at both of my Grand Prixes. It’s just a matter of staying in the moment.”

After a surprise trip to the world championships – where she finished 12th – Bell spent the summer working on her triple-triple combinations, which she said helped build her consistency. She also spent two weeks doing shows in Japan, where she was able to perform her new short program in front of audiences.

Her short program this season is set to “To Love You More” by Celine Dion and it was choreographed by her longtime training partner Adam Rippon.

“I trained with Adam for the last two or three years,” Bell said. “He’s always been there to give me advice on little things or help me with some technical stuff. But I’ve never actually worked with him for a program so that was so exciting. I’m honestly so lucky that he had the time because he’s so famous now!”

Her free skate lands on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, portraying a loss in life and learning to live without what was lost.

“It’s very deep,” she said. “I’ve never had a program that’s that raw.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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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.

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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