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U.S. Championships reporters’ notebook: Nathan Chen and more from day 2

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Our figure skating team is on the ground in Detroit to cover the U.S. Championships. This is our behind-the-scenes look at the competition on the second day.

Nathan Chen begins second semester at Yale

Chen said his status is still “TBD” if he’ll go to Four Continents Championships in Anaheim, Calif. in less than two weeks, should he be named to the team following the results of U.S. Championships. The Yale freshman started classes this week for the spring semester, which would conflict with the competition. For example, the world championships in March are during the academic spring break.

He also told reporters on Friday that his professors have asked him for a head’s up on when he’ll have to miss class.

“They’ve been pretty understanding of my situation. Typically, I have to give them a couple weeks’ [notice] in advance. This is a little different because it’s the first week of classes. I already prepped them for potential future competitions, so they’re aware I might be gone. Some of them may give me extra work, others are like, ‘Whatever. Just make sure you read the book.’ Most professors are pretty low-key about it.”

MORE: Nathan Chen’s imminent three-peat at U.S. Championships

She’s got Medvedeva arms

In seasons past, Russian stars including two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva (often) and Olympic champion Alina Zagitova (occasionally) added excitement – and difficulty – to their jumps by doing them with an arm or two overhead.

Hanna Harrell, the 15-year-old who sits fifth in Detroit after a clean short program, decided what was good enough for the Russians might be even better for her: All of the jumps in her short, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, are done with both arms overhead.

“Especially after the Olympics, even before that, I would watch the Russians and look up to them,” Harrell said at the U.S. Championships. “I always watch them do two arms above the head.”

Do Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva, her coaches in Plano, Texas, encourage her to do this?

“Uh… not necessarily,” Harrell said. “They were like, ‘OK, maybe try it if you can.’ But I wanted to one day be like the Russians, so I drilled all of my triples with two arms over the head, and now that’s how I do them.”

It’s a trait Ganicheva and Letov, married former Soviet Union competitors, have grown to accept.

“Hanna loves to do this,” Ganicheva said. “It’s just her thing. We cannot just take it away from her.”

Looking at the bright side, Letov added, “There’s no deduction for it. It can (bring) more positive GOEs [grades of execution]. What can you do? She will give you everything with arms.”

Harrell, fourth in the U.S. junior ranks last season, has other jumping aspirations, including triple Axels and quads.

“She does work on triple Axel and quad flip,” Ganicheva said. “She is a brave girl, very athletic and brave.”

“I’ve been working on them on the [jump] harness, and off the harness, but before nationals I wanted to focus on what I could do,” Harrell said. “Definitely my goal is to do triple Axel next season.”

Digerness’ doppelganger

Nica Digerness and Danny Neudecker, despite sitting ninth after the pairs’ short program, notched a personal-best score of 58.84 Thursday at U.S. Championships.

“We got a personal best in score, so I think we can only hope for the same thing in the long,” Neudecker said. “We just wanted to deliver in our program, just like we did at Skate America. That’s the goal.”

Digerness said she felt like all of their components and elements were performed well besides their side-by-side triple toes. She fell and her jump was called under-rotated.

Digerness, a native of Loveland, Colo., has often been compared to Yevgenia Tarasova because of their similar features and positions on the ice.

When asked if she is told that often, Digerness, 18, laughed and admitted that she has never heard of that comparison to her doppelganger.

Tarasova is a Russian pairs’ skater and two-time European champion with partner Vladimir Morozov. This weekend, they won silver in Minsk, Belarus.

MORE: James, Cipres win Europeans; Tarasova, Morozov earn silver

What happens in Vegas…

U.S. Figure Skating announced that Las Vegas will host the 2019 Skate America competition at the Orleans Arena from Oct. 18-20. It will be the first of six stops on the Grand Prix Series for the 2019-20 season.

It is the first time the event will be headed to Las Vegas. Orleans Arena hosts concerts and other performance events. Tickets will be on sale later this spring and the list of competitors is expected to be announced in June.

Stories compiled by Lynn Rutherford, Rachel Lutz, and Colton Wood.

MORE: Alysa Liu makes history, but wants to make more

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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Breanna Stewart to miss entire WNBA season with Achilles injury

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Breanna Stewart, the world’s top female basketball player and one of the most dominant athletes of 2018, is expected to miss the entire upcoming WNBA season after rupturing an Achilles playing in Europe on Sunday, according to the Seattle Storm.

“The situation is still a shock to me,” was posted on Stewart’s social media. “I’m feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”

Stewart, 24, skyrocketed in this Olympic cycle.

The Storm’s franchise player went from playing the second-fewest minutes on the 2016 Olympic team as its youngest player to leading the U.S. per game in points (16.3) and minutes (27) at the 2018 World Championship tournament.

Stewart earned MVP honors at worlds, matching her WNBA season and Finals honors. She became the first player to earn all three MVPs in one year.

Stewart is still expected to be in play for the 2020 Olympic team, given the Storm expect her to make a full recovery by the start of the following WNBA season next spring.

Tamika Catchings made the 2008 Olympic team after tearing her right Achilles in September 2007.

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Caster Semenya leads Olympians in Time 100; streak hits 16 years

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An Olympian has made the Time 100 Most Influential list every year since its annual inception in 2004. South African runner Caster Semenya, soccer players Alex Morgan and Mo Salah and LeBron James kept the streak going in 2019.

It’s the fourth appearance for James (2005, 2013, 2017), extending his record for an athlete, and the first for Semenya, Morgan and Salah. Semenya made it in the “icons” category, while the other three are “titans.”

Two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion Edwin Moses penned an essay about the two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya, who is fighting a legal battle with the IAAF over a potential rule change limiting women’s testosterone levels in her events. If the rule goes into effect, Semenya’s dominance (three years undefeated at 800m) is expected to vanish.

“Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications,” Moses wrote. “Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

Here are Olympians and Paralympians on past Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who competed in the Games before being listed:

2018 — Kevin Durant, Roger Federer, Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon
2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey CheekSteve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

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