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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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Justin Schoenefeld gets U.S.’ first men’s aerials World Cup win in 4 years

Justin Schoenefeld
U.S. Ski & Snowboard
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Justin Schoenefeld ended a four-year U.S. men’s aerials drought with his first World Cup win Saturday in Belarus.

Schoenfeld, 21, hit a double full-full-full in the super final to beat a field that included world champion Maxim Burov of Russia. Burov was fourth, one spot behind another American, Chris Lillis. Full results are here.

“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Schoenefeld said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I’m just shocked. It just all came so quick, all of a sudden the two finals were over, and I was on top of the podium. I probably landed two of my training jumps yesterday, but I managed to land all of my comp jumps down to my feet.”

Schoenefeld’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth, in Belarus last season.

Lillis earned the U.S.’ last World Cup men’s aerials victory on Feb. 20, 2016, also in Belarus. The four-year gap between wins marked the longest for the U.S. men since aerials was added as an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Schoenefeld also became the first American of either gender to win a World Cup aerials event in two years, since Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018. That gap was the longest for the U.S. since 2005.

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MORE: Olympic aerials champion retires to coach

Kaillie Humphries wins bobsled world title in first season for U.S.

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Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries won a bobsled world title in her first season since switching allegiance from Canada to the U.S., ending recent German dominance.

Humphries, with brakewoman Lauren Gibbs, edged German junior world champ Kim Kalicki by .37 of a second combining times from four runs between Friday and Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.

“I love this track. It’s very challenging, one of the hardest in the world,” Humphries said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “It demands a lot of focus, a lot of respect every minute you’re on that track. So to be able to win here, I know the Germans and the spectators, everybody, have worked so hard and this week, no exceptions. I’m proud of all of the girls.”

Canadian Christine de Bruin took bronze for a second straight year. Full results are here.

Humphries, who married a former U.S. bobsledder, was released by Canada in September after filing verbal abuse and harassment claims against a coach, saying she no longer felt safe with the program. As a Canadian, Humphries won 2010 and 2014 Olympic titles, plus 2012 and 2013 World titles.

Humphries joined German Sandra Kiriasis as the only female drivers to win three world titles. She is already the only female driver with multiple Olympic titles.

German Mariama Jamanka, the reigning Olympic champion and defending world champion, finished fourth in Altenberg.

Triple U.S. Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor didn’t compete as she sits out the season due to pregnancy. Meyers Taylor and Gibbs teamed for silver in PyeongChang.

The world championships continue Sunday with the conclusion of the two-man competition. German Francesco Friedrich, eyeing his sixth straight world title, leads after the first two of four runs.

A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

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