Hubbell, Donohue in position to defend ice dance title

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Defending national ice dance champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are in prime position to win a back-to-back title. They scored 84.56 points in Friday’s rhythm dance, set to “Maria de Buenos Aires” to hold more than a two-point lead over the rest of the field.

Hubbell and Donohue received level 4s on each of their elements, though missed one keypoint in their Tango Romantica.

“Today we focused on being our best, and I’m sure these other two teams did the exact same thing,” Hubbell said after the event of her training partners.

“We’ll enjoy the fact that we came out on top today and go to bed feeling satisfied,” she added. “It will be lovely to be able to win another title and share that with my family that’s in the crowd. But no matter what, our focus is going to be on getting a performance that we’re proud of.”

Results: Rhythm dance

Madison Chock and Evan Bates competed in just their second competition of the season in Detroit — and second competition since being sidelined with injury for 10 months. In the time since, they moved to Montreal to train. They skated a clean program, including all level 4 elements and scored 82.33 points and are in second place heading into Saturday’s free dance.

Chock and Bates were the 2015 U.S. champions. Their rhythm dance was sharp and spot-on; the duo received level 4s on each element and hit all the keypoints in their pattern.

“I think back stage we were less relaxed, but when we took the ice, the calmness came over us,” Bates said afterward. “We have a really good connection. This is not our fist nationals. We have been doing this a really long time, despite the ten-month layoff.”

A third Montreal-based team, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, are in third after the rhythm dance. They earned 76.77 points. Hawayek and Baker have only ever been as high as fourth place at nationals.

They hit each of the keypoints in their pattern, and received level 4s on their twizzles and their lift. Their step sequence earned a level 3.

Three teams that each won bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series this fall currently sit in fourth, fifth, and sixth before Saturday’s free skate.

MORE: Tanith White analyzes the ice dance field

Earlier Friday, the junior ice dance competition wrapped up with brother and sister duo Caroline and Gordon Green taking the top spot. The siblings totaled 172.54, followed by Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik 1.48 points back for the silver medal.

Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville tallied 155.46 points for bronze, edging out another brother and sister team, Oona and Gage Brown, who were fourth with 153.67 points.

Results: Junior ice dance 

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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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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