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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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The Wrap from Day 1 of the World Championships

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan — Matt Lindland sees progress taking place within the United States Greco-Roman program.

He sees accountability and ownership. He sees a desire to compete with the global Greco powers and a willingness to pay the price to get there.

“There’s definitely been progress,” Lindland said. “We’ve got great guys. It’s about them. They want to be here. They want to do what it’s going to take to get to that next level, and you can see it. They’re frustrated when things don’t go their way, and they’re going to figure out how to fix those things. Yeah, we’re making the right progress. We’ve got the right guys, we’ve got the right attitude.”

But Lindland also sees hesitation at times, too. He sees too much analyzing and not enough reactionary aggression.

“I think our guys are second-guessing themselves, they’re questioning and they’re thinking,” he said. “They’re thinking about what’s going to happen instead of being in the moment and just being present and letting things fly. Really great athletes out there on America’s team and they’re super capable. When they start thinking and questioning what’s going to happen and wondering what the referee is going to call, they’ve just got to go out there and do what they’re all capable of doing.”

Both dynamics — the signs progress and the work-in-progress symbols — were on display Saturday on the opening day of the World Championships.

Max Nowry, Ryan Mango and Raymond Bunker notched opening-round wins Saturday. For perspective, only three Americans posted Greco victories at the World Championships in 2018.

On the flip side, though, each of the three ran into roadblocks when they couldn’t hold leads in their second bout, and Mango and Bunker got eliminated later in the day.

Nowry and John Stefanowicz, however, got pulled into the repechage and have a chance to wrestle Sunday for medals. Nowry got an extra opportunity when Kazakhstan’s Khorlan Zhakansha stunned 2018 World champ and No. 1 seed Eldaniz Azizli of Azerbaijan, 11-5, in the 55-kilogram semifinals.

Stefanowicz dropped a 7-0 decision in the Round of 16 at 82 kilograms against Georgia’s Lasha Gobadze. But the Georgian posted two more victories to set Stefanowicz up with another chance at a medal.

Read the rest of the article at Track Wrestling

Sky Brown, 11 years old, is third at world skateboarding championships ahead of Olympic debut

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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old who appears en route to becoming the youngest female Summer Olympian in 50 years, took third at the world skateboarding championships in Sao Paulo on Saturday. The sport debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Brown posted her highest score of her four finals runs in the last round, 58.13 points, of the park event. It was not enough to overtake Japanese Misugu Okamoto and Sakura Yosozumi. The new world champion Okamoto is 13 years old. Yosozumi is 17.

Brown has been raised in Japan by a Japanese mother and a British father. The 2018 Dancing with the Stars: Juniors winner appeared in a Nike “Dream Crazier” ad with Simone BilesSerena Williams and Chloe Kim in February.

She has not clinched an Olympic spot yet but is well on her way as the qualifying season continues.

She turns 12 years old just before the Tokyo Olympics begin and would be the youngest Olympian since Romanian rowing coxswain Carlos Front at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

She would be the youngest female Olympian since Chinese ice dancer Liu Luyang in 1988 and the youngest female Summer Olympian since Puerto Rican swimmer Liana Vicens in 1968, according to the OlyMADMen.

The Tokyo Games feature four skateboarding events — men’s and women’s street and park.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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