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Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation brings skating stars to Detroit ahead of U.S. Championships

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By Colton Wood

DETROIT – Scott Hamilton thought it was just an ulcer.

In 1997, figure skating icon Hamilton was 50 cities into a 60-city ice tour and could no longer stand the pain he was suffering through, so he went to the emergency room to get medication, a decision that will forever be etched in Hamilton’s mind.

Hamilton, 38 at the time, soon learned his pain wasn’t the result of an ulcer. Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, had testicular cancer.

After watching his mother struggle with cancer, Hamilton, who eventually lost her to cancer at 18, was frightened by his diagnosis.

Hamilton ended up winning his battle, but it gave him the idea to start his own foundation to change the future of cancer. So, in 1999, he started the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation.

Twenty years later, Hamilton and his foundation hosted a free skating event – “Sk8 to Elimin8 Cancer” – in Detroit to help raise money for his foundation and cancer research.

The event, which was held on Wednesday in anticipation for the start of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, brought together a slew of local skaters and several prominent Olympians and national champions.

“It’s really cool to be able to partner with [U.S. Figure Skating] and for them to be so willing to partner with me,” Hamilton said. “They’ve been unconditionally supportive. We have a lot of skaters here doing this. The skaters like doing this because there’s no one who hasn’t been touched by it in some way, shape or form.”

Among the skaters was Samantha Lang, a junior-level skater and Michigan resident who competed at Midwestern Sectionals this year.

“It’s a really big honor,” said Lang, who moved to Michigan from Texas at 13. “Not a lot of people can say they were a part of something like this. I feel really grateful that I got to do something as special as this and give back to the community because figure skating has done a lot for me.”

While Lang, 17, was skating for more than just the crowd’s enjoyment on Wednesday, she was honored to be able to skate alongside eminent figure skaters.

“It kind of puts pressure on your own back to say, ‘Hey, you need to step up to the plate and do the best you can because look at all these people that have done great things. You need to do great things,’” Lang said.

Yuka Sato, the 1994 world champion from Japan, was one of the last skaters to perform during Wednesday’s event.

Sato, who has lived in Michigan since 1998, said it meant a lot to her to be able to skate for Hamilton’s foundation.

“Numerous of [Hamilton’s and my] friends have fought cancer,” Sato said. “It’s always very sentimental. One more person that can be saved [from cancer], that would be wonderful. Scott and I have been longtime friends. I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs of what Scott has gone through. Anytime I’m available, and if we can do this together – this means a lot to myself, and anything I can do for Scott – I’m here.”

To wrap the night up, Olympic medalist and four-time U.S. national champion Jeremy Abbott took to the ice and awed the audience.

“I think everyone is affected by cancer in one way or another,” Abbott said. “I think what Scott’s doing is really important.”

Abbott was diagnosed and underwent surgery for basal cell carcinoma in Dec. 2017. It is the least malignant and most common form of skin cancer.

Abbott grew up admiring the career of Hamilton, so to be able to perform for the foundation was something he didn’t take for granted.

“Every once in a while,” Abbott said, “I’ll just step back and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m performing with these people that I idolized as a kid and wanted to be and wanted to have their careers. And now, they’re calling me to be a part of it.’ When I actually have those moments where I can really step back and see that progression, my mind is blown.”

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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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Katie Ledecky swims fastest at U.S. Open from B final

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For what must have been the first time in seven years, Katie Ledecky failed to qualify for an A final in one of her primary events on Friday morning. No matter, she swam the fastest 200m freestyle at the U.S. Open from the B final at night.

Ledecky, owner of 20 combined Olympic and world titles, clocked 1:56.24 to win the B final by nearly three seconds in Atlanta. In the very next race, American record holder Allison Schmitt touched first in the A final in 1:56.47.

Full results are here. The final day of the meet airs live on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Ledecky has rarely lost domestically in freestyles from 200m through 1500m since she made her first Olympic team at age 15 in 2012.

She kept the streak intact, giving her a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in the first three days of the U.S. Open, what could be the deepest domestic meet before the Olympic trials in June.

Internationally, Ledecky faced challengers in the 200m free in this Olympic cycle, unlike the last one. Italian veteran and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won the last two world titles, with Ledecky missing the event this summer due to her mid-meet illness.

Ledecky ranks seventh in the world in the 200m free this year but likely would have been faster if she was able to race at her best at world champs.

Domestically, Simone Manuel has crept up, clocking 1:56.09 to lead off the 4x200m free relay at worlds to rank second among Americans in 2019. Manuel was the third-fastest American on Friday, recording 1:57.21, her fastest time ever outside of a major summer meet.

In other events Friday, Phoebe Bacon upset world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke. Bacon, who like Smith is 17 years old, overtook Smith in the last 25 meters and prevailed by .05 in 58.63. Bacon, while shy of Smith’s world record 57.57, took .39 off her personal best to become the fifth-fastest in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King dominated the 100m breaststroke, beating a strong field by .62 of a second in 1:05.65.

Chase Kalisz won a potential Olympic trials preview in the 400m individual medley in 4:13.07. Kalisz, the Rio silver medalist, held off 18-year-old Carson Foster by 1.69 seconds. Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic champion in the event, was fifth, 6.65 seconds behind.

Rio Olympian Townley Haas won the men’s 200m free in 1:45.92, his fastest time since August 2018. Haas, the 2017 World silver medalist, improved to the second-fastest American in the event this year behind Andrew Seliskar.

Torri Huske won the 100m butterfly on the eve of her 17th birthday. Huske clocked 57.48, taking .23 off her personal best to move from sixth fastest to third fastest in the U.S. this year.

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Ester Ledecka stuns again, wins World Cup downhill from bib No. 26

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Consider 26 a lucky number for Ester Ledecka.

Ledecka, the snowboard champion who stunningly captured the PyeongChang Olympic super-G from bib No. 26, won her first World Cup ski race on Friday — also from bib No. 26.

Ledecka was fastest in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta.

She kept Swiss Corinne Suter from her first World Cup win by .35 of a second. Austrian Stephanie Venier was third. Mikaela Shiffrin was 10th in her weakest discipline. Full results are here.

“I am for sure more shocked than everybody here,” Ledecka said. “I was a little bit, not disappointed about the run, but I was not super satisfied. Then I was really surprised about the time.”

Ledecka, an Olympic and world champion in Alpine snowboarding from the Czech Republic, had a previous best Alpine skiing World Cup finish of seventh. The top-ranked racers all go in the top 20 of the start list.

Last season, Ledecka raced more World Cup skiing events than snowboarding events for the first time. She was forced to choose between world championships in skiing and in snowboarding due to schedules and picked the former with a top finish of 15th.

She’s undecided about her upcoming schedule. She could continue on the Alpine skiing tour with a super-G in Switzerland next weekend, or she could fly to Italy for a snowboarding event.

The women race another downhill and a super-G in Lake Louise the next two days. A full TV and live stream schedule for the weekend races is here.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing season TV schedule