AP Photo

Jin Boyang explains this season’s setbacks

Leave a comment

GRENOBLE, France — China’s Jin Boyang, the 2016 and 2017 World bronze medalist, is considered part of the original “quad squad” that took figure skating by storm these last three years (Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Nathan Chen and Jin). Jin was the first to land a quad Lutz-triple toe combination.

He was also nearly the first Chinese male singles skater to earn an Olympic medal, placing fourth in PyeongChang.

His follow-up Grand Prix campaign was a nightmare. He was fifth in Helsinki earlier this month and ninth at Internationaux de France last week.

Jin didn’t have high expectations for the fall events, attributing poor results to media pressure and logistical problems.

It started in the summer, when the Chinese federation announced that Jin would relocate to Toronto to train in Brian Orser’s camp. That struck like a hammer to Jin’s head.

“I felt a lot of pressure … both from the media and from my friends,” he said through an interpreter in Grenoble. “I was overwhelmed by that pressure.

“But it’s not the right place for me to speak of it at this moment. I’d like to be known for what I’m doing in competition, not because of these stories.”

It soon became apparent that Jin would stay in China.

Jin’s travel to both of his Grand Prix events was delayed. For Helsinki, the name on his ticket was different than the name on his passport.

“The day I was due to leave for France, I still had not received my visa,” he said. “I first had to re-book my flight for the next day. Then I was expecting my visa that day, but at 5:30 p.m. it was still not there, and the French embassy was closing at 6 p.m. I had to fly the next morning at 2 a.m.”

He was on the ice Thursday, one day before competition started.

“My practice sessions went rather well in Grenoble, but I certainly lacked confidence on the competitive ice,” Jin said. “It’s not that it created a big mental problem for me, but missing a flight three times can destabilize you, for sure.”

One thing was most visible in Grenoble, however: Jin improved his artistry significantly.

“After the Games I could spend a lot of time with Lori Nichol, my choreographer, discussing what kind of movements I could present in competition,” he said. “She told me to be a happy skater, a happy Boyang. She gave me confidence.”

Jin also disclosed a slice of his own personal history that few were aware of: his ballet past, something he shares with Chen.

“I was a good dancer as a child. I trained in ballet, Latin dances, jazz, you name it,” he said. “When I started to skate competitively, I was short, and I had to forget about ballet to start learning jumps. I had to focus on jumps, and I think that’s when I forgot about ballet.

“Coming back to dance now, I feel that I am now closer to the ideal skater I wanted to be originally. I have hired a Flamenco teacher myself to teach me the movements. I am also reviewing a lot of shows and TV videos to help me improve my artistry.”

Writer Feng Xiao interpreted the Jin interview.

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 to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu withdraws from Grand Prix Final

Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

Leave a comment

There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.