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Three questions with Vincent Zhou before U.S. Championships

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Vincent Zhou was off-balance a little this season so far. He was hampered by a back injury over the summer that delayed his training, which led to a sense of unpreparedness for the U.S. International Classic in September, where he finished fourth.

On the Grand Prix series, he was fifth at Skate America and fourth at Grand Prix Japan. But he competed at Tallinn Trophy in December, earning a silver, and believes he’s now back on track and ready for the U.S. Championships in Detroit this weekend.

Here’s what we learned from his media teleconference (or as Zhou jokingly said to reporters on the call, “welcome to my TED Talk”):

1. After some under rotation calls throughout the fall, Zhou has pushed himself to be squeaky-clean on his landings.

“The only thing it’s really done for me is push me to make it clearer – to make my jumps cleaner. One of my number one focuses since then has been making the rotation clearer. That’s one of the things I hope people will see in Detroit because I have been training better in that aspect.”

“I can only acknowledge the fact that I’ve been improving and working very hard on it. Hopefully the results show at nationals. It hasn’t been easy, redefining my standard of what is OK in terms of rotation or not. But I’m getting much stronger in that aspect.”

2. Zhou went to his choreographers for a tune-up before Nationals.

“I was able to go to Toronto for a week to kind of rework my program with Lori Nichol for the short and Jeff Buttle for the free skate. We made some pretty significant changes to the programs. I feel like they’re much better than before now. Not only have the programs improved, but also spending the week in Toronto really – without hammering away at the quads – helped me (I don’t want to say rediscover) but it helped me find out how much I really enjoy the creative process and the freedom and the flow that comes with good skating. I value that much more and I hope that it shows when I skate.

“It’s very difficult to be in the river current of a pure, unadulterated flow of a program, the choreography. Doing quads kind of snaps you out of that. but I’m trying to integrate the two together. It’s a work in progress for sure. I believe there have been pretty significant changes and good ones, too.”

Zhou also mentioned he’d been working with Tom Dickson, who’s been helping “place my shoulders, my arms, in relation to my head and combining that with the best position to create flow more easily.”

3. Last year’s success is just that – last year. Instead, Zhou is looking ahead.

“It’s not just duplicating what happened last year, but moving beyond it. I think my skating is in a different place than it was last year… I wanted so badly to make the Olympic team… I wanted to make this season more about improving my skating, the quality of my skating, my programs. I’m really looking forward to showing that in Detroit.”

MORE: Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships 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.

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No medal for David Boudia as China extends perfect run at diving worlds

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David Boudia is very much a work in progress in his first year as a springboard diver. That much was evident in his dive list for Thursday’s final at the world championships, where Boudia had the lowest total degree of difficulty.

Boudia, a four-time Olympic platform medalist who earned individual platform silver at his last three world championships, took fifth in the springboard final in Gwangju, South Korea while performing easier dives than the other 11 men.

It marked Boudia’s first major international meet since Rio. He took 2017 off from diving to sell homes. In February 2018, he suffered a concussion on a badly missed dive in training off the 10-meter platform, sparking the switch to springboard, a common move for divers late in their careers.

Boudia will spend the next year — the next six months in particular — trying to close the gap on the medalists. China’s Xie Siyi and Cao Yuan went one-two.

Great Britain’s Jack Laugher was in position to become the first non-Chinese diver to take gold in 10 events this week before failing his last dive for 30.6 points, the lowest-scoring dive of the 72 in the final. Laugher scored at least 9.0s on his first five dives, including a 10, before recording between 2s and 3s from the seven judges in the last round and squandering a 31.1-point lead.

“It’s hard to get over,” Laugher said. “I don’t really have words for my last dive. ”

Laugher had 21.6 points in difficulty in Thursday’s final. Xie had 21.3 and Cao 21.2. Boudia had 19.9, arguably putting him out of the running for the podium before he stepped on the springboard.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, accomplished his goal for worlds simply by making the final.

Boudia and Rio Olympian Michael Hixon reached the top 12 to ensure the U.S. gets two men’s springboard spots at Tokyo 2020, to be filled at June’s Olympic trials in Indianapolis. Hixon, who was 10th in Rio and 20th at the 2017 Worlds, finished seventh in Gwangju.

Diving worlds continue with the women’s springboard final, featuring Chinese Olympic champion Shi Tingmao but no Americans, on Friday. The men’s platform final is Saturday.

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MORE: Diving Worlds TV Schedule

Chris Froome wins 2011 Vuelta a Espana

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AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) — Chris Froome has become the 2011 Spanish Vuelta winner because of Juan Jose Cobo’s disqualification for blood doping.

The International Cycling Union says Cobo did not meet a deadline to challenge his three-year ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The UCI says Cobo’s suspension announced last month is confirmed, and he is stripped of results at the 2009 world championships and Vuelta, and the 2011 Vuelta which he won.

Froome was runner-up eight years ago and becomes the winner of his first Grand Tour title, and seventh overall.

Froome also becomes the first British winner of any of the major stage races — the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, or Vuelta.

That honor was held by Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour winner who rises from third to be runner-up at the 2011 Vuelta.

The 38-year-old Cobo is retired from racing. His doping ban was announced days after Froome suffered season-ending injuries crashing at the Dauphine race in France.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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