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U.S. Championships ladies’ preview: Tennell, Bell dueling for top placement with 13-year-old Liu

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Bradie Tennell is looking to defend her title at the U.S. Championships this weekend in Detroit. Tennell faces challenges from another national medalist, Mariah Bell, as well as a 13-year-old with triple Axels in her arsenal.

Together, Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen won seven of the last 11 U.S. Championship titles; none are competing in Detroit. That being said, here’s a closer look at who might land on the podium.

The ladies’ short program is Thursday and the free skate is Friday. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

Tennell tries to defend first title

Tennell was known for her consistency as she rose from relative unknown to U.S. Champion to Olympic team event bronze medalist in the span of a few months last year. These days, she has lost some of that consistency – though she has bettered her technical content to keep up with the best in the world. She’s looking for her improved artistry to show at this year’s championships and could win her second national title in Detroit.

MORE: 3 questions with Bradie Tennell

Mariah Bell hunting for first title

Bell has been on the national championships podium before, but never in the top spot. Since moving to train with Rafael Arutunian in California in 2016, Bell has been third and fifth at nationals. Her short program to Celine Dion’s “To Love You More,” choreographed by friend Adam Rippon, is one to keep an eye one. Bell figures to be one of Tennell’s biggest threats for gold in Detroit.

MORE: Mariah Bell just keeps getting better

Alysa Liu could play spoiler

The 13-year-old isn’t eligible for any senior – let alone any junior – events this season. Nevertheless, she could stand atop the podium with gold, especially with her triple Axel prowess. Liu could be the third-ever lady to land a triple Axel at nationals, behind Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner. (Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel at the Olympics, but not nationals, in 2018.) Should Liu win, she’d be the youngest U.S. champion ever. Tara Lipinski won at age 14 in 1997.

MORE: Alysa Liu with a “real chance” to win nationals

Others to watch

Starr Andrews has attempted triple Axels in the past, too. She gained game at last year’s nationals for skating to Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time,” in which Andrews recorded her own vocals.

Ting Cui is making her senior national debut and is known for her artistry on ice. She’s even working on a couple of quads, but we don’t expect to see them in Detroit.

Veterans like Courtney Hicks, Hannah Miller and Amber Glenn also make reappearance at the Championships. Hicks and Miller have been top-10 in the past, but not on the podium. For the past two years, Glenn finished eighth, and is looking to advance.

MORE: One spot on the line for U.S. pairs at the world championships

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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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season