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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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WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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