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Mirai Nagasu makes commentating debut at U.S. Championships

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By Colton Wood

DETROIT – Mirai Nagasu sat tall in a chair in front of three cameras and two LED stage lights, which brought out the features of her face and brightened the white jacket she donned.

Instead of lacing up her skates for the 13th consecutive year at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Nagasu, the first American woman to land a triple Axel in Olympic competition, was behind a desk, holding a microphone.

Nagasu had hip surgery in September; her body isn’t fully healed yet to allow her to get back to competitive figure skating.

But Nagasu couldn’t see herself confined to watching nationals at her home, especially after seeing several of her idols – Kristi Yamaguchi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White – come to nationals year after year despite no longer skating competitively.

“Yes, they might all be Olympic champions, and I may have missed those qualifications,” Nagasu said, “but at the same time, I want to give back in a way that I’m capable of.”

She then reached out to U.S. Figure Skating, hoping to find a way to come to nationals in Detroit through a different route.

Shortly after that conversation, Nagasu was given the opportunity to join the Bridgestone Ice Desk crew as an analyst for nationals.

On Thursday, just moments before the pairs’ short program commenced, Nagasu had her broadcast debut.

“I’m used to being in front of the camera, and I enjoy it,” Nagasu said, “but being out on the Jumbotron and being live and not being able to make mistakes, is something I’m not always used to.”

Nagasu said she enjoys watching a multitude of different analytical shows, and realized that to be a broadcaster, you have to be quick on your feet and deliver your answers with “your own twist and your own personality.”

Sitting between host Nick McCarvel and former competitive skater Brooke Castile, Nagasu’s smile shone bright throughout her debut.

She looked confident, which Nagasu admitted was sometimes faked.

“Fake it ’till you make it,” she joked.

Nagasu said she wants to branch out of skating as well, and the opportunity to work on the Ice Desk is a prime beginning.

“For me to be given the opportunity to be a part of the Ice Desk, is something I am really grateful for,” she said. “I’m grateful to my skating and to have found it at such a young age; I think that’s where I’m at right now – being humble and being grateful for everything I have in my life.”

MORE: Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation brings skating stars to Detroit ahead of U.S. 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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‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ primetime special covers social justice, combating inequality

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Athletes, including Olympians, discussed social justice, locker room conversations about race and ways that sports can help combat inequality in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Regional Networks.

NBC Sports’ Damon Hack hosted roundtables with active and retired athletes at the American Century Championship Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last week.

Panelists, including Olympians James Blake and Charles Barkley and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Stephen Curry, also reflected on personal experiences.

Barkley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996, said coaches recently reached out to him to speak to their teams.

“First of all, relax and breathe,” Barkley said. “This crap started 400 years ago. We can’t do nothing about that. We can’t do anything about systematic racism. What I challenge every Black person, every white person to do: What can I do today going forward?

“You have to ask yourself, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Blake, a retired former top-five tennis player and 2008 Olympian, was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity caught on video. The police officer’s punishment was a loss of five vacation days.

“The first thing I said when I got tackled was, I’m complying 100 percent,” Blake said. “And that shouldn’t have to be your response the first time you interact with a police officer. And because that’s the way my dad taught me is stay alive. Do whatever you can to stay alive. Sort it out later with lawyers or however you want to do it, and stay alive in that moment. The fact you have to have those rules in 2020 means maybe we have to do something drastic to change the way police interact with the African-American community and the way the community interacts with the police.”

Curry said his daughters, 7-year-old Riley and 5-year-old Ryan, asked questions about the images they recently saw. He’s not shielding them, but rather being honest about society, going back centuries.

“We have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those type of things,” Curry said. “And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change. I’m hopeful and optimistic about, but I understand how much work will need to go into that.”

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Additionally, Hack was joined by Super Bowl champion running back Jerome Bettis for an extended interview that will be published on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms.

MORE: Elana Meyers Taylor’s claims of racism in bobsled being investigated

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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