Three questions with Kaitlin Hawayek, Jean-Luc Baker before U.S. Championships

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Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker made the move to Montreal this season; so far, it’s paid dividends. Despite a delay in their training time this summer due to Baker’s concussion, the ice dance team won NHK Trophy in Japan and placed fourth at Grand Prix France. It was enough for them to qualify for their first Grand Prix Final, capping off their most successful season so far.

They spoke to reporters during a media teleconference ahead of the U.S. Championships in Detroit this weekend, where they hope to continue to take steps forward on their four-year plan.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Baker says he’s essentially symptom-free from his concussion.

He said that after the Grand Prix Final, he flew to see his doctor that had originally examined him in August.

Jean-Luc Baker: “We’ve been on a recovery plan. I’ve been communicating with her since August, two or three times a week… We have another plan set for the rest of the season. When you have a concussion or multiple concussions, sometimes symptoms can linger around a lot longer than people of anticipate. I’d say the majority of the time, I’m good. There are some days where I struggle a little bit more. But the best part about being here in Montreal is that I’m not alone. I have Kaitlin; I have my support team around me. They all understand and they’re so, so intelligent in a way that maybe some days are better to push through and some days are not. I thought I knew my body. They almost understand my body more than I do.”

2. Training with two other American teams in Montreal has given them another reason to continue to work hard.

Kaitlin Hawayek: “We’re training differently than we used to because we’re in a new training environment… There are so many top athletes there. We always are on the ice with people that are working just as hard as we are, who are incredibly talented, incredibly driven. When we’re not on the ice, in between our sessions, when we’re warming up off the ice, a different group of people will be on the ice and we get to see them train and push themselves too. It’s a very motivating environment to be in.”

3. They can see changes in themselves since they moved to Montreal.

JB: “I don’t think necessarily think that we’ve changed so much as we’ve had a deeper level of understanding on who we are and why we skate. A lot of things like that. Our coaching team is very, very strict in terms of – they want us to know why we are doing what we’re doing. Having a championship mentality and being accountable for everything that we do. It’s on us at the end of the day. It really has been such an experience moving here because I think Kaitlin and I have both grown so much as people as well as skaters because we’re learning so much more about ourselves, about each other, and it’s been a big process and a great one.”

KH: “The mentality of ‘in it to win it’ is something that’s been a major influence on the way that we look at training… In the past we’ve been afraid to think of the idea of training to win in a sense because obviously it’s hard to get to the top. But if you never allow yourself to think that you can get there, you won’t be able to get there. Both of us have really changed our mentality to train win and train to be the best. That’s what we’re doing heading in nationals. The rest is out of our hands.”

MORE: Three questions with Madison Chock and Evan Bates

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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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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