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U.S. Championships men’s preview: Nathan Chen’s imminent three-peat

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Nathan Chen can capture his third national title at the U.S. Championships this weekend in Detroit. His technical prowess leaves him largely unchallenged in the field, though familiar faces to the U.S. podium will look to take home medals of their own. PyeongChang Olympian Vincent Zhou and Sochi Olympian Jason Brown are the most likely candidates.

Zhou’s focus this season has been on integrating the artistic side of his skating with his own technical ability. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, moved to Toronto to train this season under Brian Orser.

The men’s short program is Saturday and the free skate is Sunday. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

Nathan Chen three-peat possible

The last man to win three straight U.S. national titles was Johnny Weir, who won from 2004 to 2006. Chen attempts to match that feat in Detroit, and the reigning world champion should be relatively unchallenged on the ice. Chen, the Grand Prix Final winner and Yale freshman, has largely been training alone this season. California-based coach Rafael Arutunian has been “telecoaching” him from across the country while Chen has been in at school in New Haven, Connecticut.

MORE: Nathan Chen’s ambitious spring semester kicks off with U.S. Championships

Vincent Zhou focused on growth

Zhou missed the podium at both of his Grand Prix assignments, mostly due to strict under-rotation calls this season. He told reporters ahead of nationals that he’s been working to make the rotation on his jumps clearer. “That’s one of the things I hope people will see in Detroit because I have been training better in that aspect,” he said.

MORE: 3 questions with Vincent Zhou

Jason Brown

Brown left the only coach he’s ever had at the end of last season, when he missed the 2018 Olympics. Now in Toronto with Orser and Tracy Wilson, he’s training alongside double Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. Brown still doesn’t have a quad, but his high artistic marks keep him in the conversation. His long-term goals circle around the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

MORE: 3 questions with Jason Brown

Others to watch

Alex Krasnozhon was last year’s favorite to win the world junior championship, but an injury on a quad loop attempt forced him to withdraw in the middle of his free skate. He struggled with getting training back on track for this season, but is still a dark horse for the podium if he successfully hits his technically difficult programs.

Jimmy Ma’s viral “Turn Down for What” program from last year’s nationals will be followed up with another one to watch – his short program is set to “Mi Gente.”

Camden Pulkinen makes his senior national debut. He trains alongside Zhou in Colorado Springs and has made the Junior Grand Prix Final the past two seasons.

Veterans Tim Dolensky and Alex Johnson make their sixth and ninth national championships appearance, respectively. Both typically place inside the top 10 thanks to their clean, artistic programs.

MORE: Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell challenged in ladies’ field by 13-year-old

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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Morgan Hurd left off U.S. gymnastics team for world championships

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Simone Biles is joined on the U.S. team for the world gymnastics championships by five women bidding to make their first Olympic team next year.

Sunisa LeeKara EakerJade Carey, Grace McCallum and MyKayla Skinner were named to the team at the conclusion of selection camp competition Monday in Sarasota, Fla. Biles locked up the first spot by winning an all-around competition on Sunday.

A notable omission was Morgan Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion in Biles’ absence who was fourth in the all-around at the U.S. Championships in August and ninth at the selection camp on Sunday. Hurd, who came back from December elbow surgery, was named a non-traveling alternate along with Leanne Wong.

Had Hurd made the team, she could have bid to join Biles as the only women to earn all-around medals at three straight world championships. Instead, her absence is a testament to the U.S. women’s depth.

The Americans won every Olympic or world team title dating to 2011, the longest reign of dominance since Soviet teams of the 1970s. Last year, their margin of victory — 8.766 points — was the largest in history at an Olympics or worlds.

A look at the six women on this year’s team, one of which will be designated an on-site alternate at worlds in Stuttgart, Germany:

Simone Biles
Undefeated in all-around competitions for six years, Biles will break more records in Stuttgart. The biggest one is career world championships medals. Biles is at 20, tied with Svetlana Khorkina for the female record. The overall record is 23, held by retired Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo. Last year, Biles became the first gymnast to earn medals in every event at worlds in 31 years and won the all-around by a record margin despite two falls and a kidney stone.

Sunisa Lee
The revelation of this summer. Lee went from third in the junior division at last year’s nationals to second to Biles both at nationals in August and in Sunday’s selection competition. At the latter, Lee was only .35 of a point behind Biles, closer than any of Biles’ last five margins of victory at nationals. She is the national champion on uneven bars and the youngest woman on the team at 16.

Kara Eaker
Eaker solidified her spot by placing third at the selection camp with a score that would have been runner-up to Biles on either day at nationals. Eaker was 10th at nationals with scores more than two points lower than what she did on Sunday. She is a medal contender on balance beam. Eaker had the second-highest beam score in qualifying at worlds last year but fell off the apparatus in the final, placing sixth.

Jade Carey
The 2017 World silver medalist on floor and vault. Carey decided last year to try to make the Olympic team on her own individually — a new wrinkle in Olympic qualifying this cycle — which precluded her from competing at the 2018 Worlds. She’s well on her way to clinching an Olympic spot before June’s trials, but first she will be an asset to this team as its second-ranked floor and vault gymnast behind Biles.

MyKayla Skinner
The 2016 Olympic alternate pulled off the rare feat of making a world team while being an NCAA gymnast (at Utah). Skinner returned to elite gymnastics this season for the first time since Rio and impressed Sunday, placing fourth in the all-around. Like Carey, she specializes on floor and vault.

Grace McCallum
McCallum was third in the all-around at nationals and sixth at the selection camp. The 2018 World team member is best known for her floor, too. She was seventh in qualifying at 2018 Worlds on the event but missed the final due to the two-per-country rule.

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MORE: U.S. men’s team named for gymnastics worlds

Tommie Smith, John Carlos part of U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame class

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos are part of the 2019 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame class that will be inducted later this year.

The sprinters were sent home from the 1968 Mexico City Games after staging a protest by raising their gloved fists on the medals stand. They were long left on the sidelines at the USOPC, but the federation has worked to bring them back inside the family in recent years.

“It sends the message that maybe we had to go back in time and make some conscious decisions about whether we were right or wrong,” Carlos said, according to USA Today. “They’ve come to the conclusion that, ‘Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era.'”

The class will be inducted at a ceremony in Colorado Springs on Nov. 1. It will be the first class inducted since 2012.

The rest of the class: Candace Cable, Erin Popovich, Chris Waddell (Paralympics), Lisa Leslie (basketball), Nastia Liukin (gymnastics), Misty May-Treanor (beach volleyball), Apolo Anton Ohno (short track speedskating), Dara Torres (swimming), the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team), Ron O’Brien (diving coach) and Tim Nugent (special contributor).

After the Hall of Fame essentially stalled out, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland pushed to revive it as part of a federation effort to focus more on athletes.

“We thank them for their impact on sport and society, and for continuing to inspire the next generation of athletes and fans,” Hirshland said.

The induction of Smith and Carlos is long overdue. After being kicked out of the 1968 Olympics for their iconic raised-fist protest on the medals stand, the sprinters were left on the sideline of the official U.S. Olympic movement. Their 2016 visit to the White House, along with USOPC leaders, marked the first official event they’d been part of since their ouster in 1968.

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VIDEO: Kaepernick introduces Smith, Carlos at USATF Night of Legends