Detroit, Little Caesars Arena
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Skaters’ ties to Detroit add local flavor to U.S. Championships

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By Colton Wood

DETROIT – When Hannah Miller was warming up for her short program on Thursday night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she heard an assembly of recognizable voices.

“Cheesers! Clappies! Make it happen! You’re fantabulous! We love you!” the group chanted.

The voices Miller heard came from several of her teammates at the Lansing Skating Club, where she has trained most of her life. With nationals taking place just over an hour from the Lansing SC, it gave Miller’s teammates the opportunity to watch her skate on the national level in person.

What the group said to Miller was something they have all said to each other before competitions for about 12 years.

Around 15 people, Miller said, flocked to Little Caesars Arena – home of Detroit’s Red Wings in the NHL and Pistons in the NBA – in Detroit to cheer her on during her short program.

“It’s awesome,” Miller said. “My family has been so supportive throughout my entire career. I couldn’t have asked for a better location for nationals this year because they all get to come and watch and support. It’s a chance for my family and all my trainers and all my friends to come see what it’s really like to be in a national arena.”

But Miller isn’t alone.

MORE: Behind the scenes from Day 2 at the U.S. Championships

Numerous other skaters came to nationals with Michigan roots and were able to perform in front of countless family members and friends.

“It’s so nice to be home,” said pair skater Brian Johnson, a Farmington Hills, Michigan, native and member of the Detroit SC who trains in California. “I can’t describe it. I’m the kind of person who likes winter. I actually missed all the snow and stuff. I know it sounds crazy. I love the people. I just love being home.”

Not many of Johnson’s family and friends get to experience his performances in person. His mother has to watch most of his programs from afar but will occasionally get to watch him skate in person when she goes on work trips.

With his family and friends in the crowd watching him, Johnson feels less pressure at nationals this year.

“Most of my family is here; some came from Chicago,” he said. “All my friends are here. I would say it’s almost a little calmer.”

It’s been 25 years since Detroit last hosted nationals. Since then, Detroit underwent a city revival and constructed a multimillion-dollar arena to replace the decaying Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s cool to be in Detroit in this new facility,” said 2018 Olympic team event bronze medalist Nathan Chen. “Little Caesars Arena is a really cool rink. It’s really cool to be here.”

For Lansing, Michigan, native Madison Hubbell, her extended family has rarely been able to see her skate live. She added that her uncle and cousin are obsessive sports fans.

“For them, Little Caesars Arena calls for celebration,” Hubbell said. “This big arena, we’re gonna do it the way these other sports do it. They called the arena, everyone’s confirmed that this is possible to do a tailgate. They’re arranging it and they’re doing it with Kaitlin Hawayek’s parents and Evan Bates’ parents.”

The tailgate will take place on Saturday before the free dance.

“I’m just hoping that [our families] actually make it to the event,” Hawayek joked.

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Hayley Wickenheiser is 7th woman elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Hayley Wickenheiser
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Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female hockey player of all time who retired in 2017, will be the seventh female player in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The six-time Canadian Olympian (once in softball) was elected in her first year of eligibility. Wickenheiser is joined by Sergei Zubov, who earned gold at the 1992 Albertville Games with the Unified Team, two-time Czech Olympic medalist Václav Nedomanský and 1980s and ’90s NHLer Guy Carbonneau, among others.

The induction ceremony is Nov. 18 in Toronto.

Wickenheiser is the fifth Canadian female player elected after Angela James (2010), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Danielle Goyette (2017) and Jayna Hefford (2018). Americans Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela Ruggiero (2015) are also Hall of Famers.

Wickenheiser, now the Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant director of player development, earned four golds and one silver in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments. She played 23 years for the Canadian national team, earning seven world titles and being named Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006.

She also carried the Canadian flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and recited the Athletes’ Oath at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony. She was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in 2014.

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Breaking provisionally added for 2024 Olympics

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Breaking (don’t call it break dancing) was provisionally added to the Olympics for the 2024 Paris Games.

The IOC also announced Tuesday that skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were provisionally added to the 2024 Olympic program. Those three sports will debut at Tokyo 2020 but were not assured places on the Olympic program beyond next year.

“They contribute to making the program more gender balanced and more urban, and offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “The proposed sports are in line with these principles and enhance Paris 2024’s overall dynamic Games concept, which focuses on inclusivity, inspiring a new audience and hosting socially responsible Games.”

The IOC Executive Board will make the final decision on the Paris 2024 event program in December 2020, but no more sports can be proposed for inclusion. That means baseball and softball, which return to the Olympics next year, will not be on the 2024 Olympic program. Those sports can still be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Breaking debuted at the Youth Olympics last year, where the U.S. did not have any athletes. Sergei “Bumblebee” Chernyshev of Russia and Ramu Kawai of Japan took gold medals.

Breaking had never previously been up for a vote for Olympic inclusion, but the World DanceSport Federation is recognized by the IOC.

Teenagers, some of whom went by nicknames like Bad Matty, Senorita Carlota and KennyG, went head-to-head in dance battles at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last year. They performed on a mat atop an outdoor basketball court to a musical beat and emcees.

Judges determined winners using six criteria: creativity, personality, technique, variety, perfomativity and musicality.

“Breaking (also called b-boying or b-girling) is an urban dance style,” according to the Youth Olympics. “The urban dance style originated during the mid 1970s in the Bronx borough of New York City.”

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