Nathan Chen leads men’s short program, looking at three straight U.S. titles

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DETROIT – In a little less than an hour of elapsed time, in short programs that last a little less than three minutes, three U.S. men gave performances to stand the test of time.

They ran from extraordinary to exhilarating to exquisite.

Never had Nathan Chen, Jason Brown and Vincent Zhou skated a short program in competition better than each did Saturday afternoon in the U.S. Championships at Little Caesars Arena.

Chen’s quadruple jump pyrotechnics were enhanced by a heightened ability to grab an audience when he isn’t jumping. Brown’s quad-less program had a flow and refinement that stretched through the position of his fingers as the music stopped. Zhou looked like an utterly rejuvenated version of the skater who had dealt with a back injury and a crisis of confidence this season.

Chen’s 113.42 points gave him a commanding lead in his quest for a third straight U.S. title. Brown had 100.52, Zhou 100.25. The next finisher, Tomoki Hiwatashi, was 16 points behind Zhou.

The free skate is Sunday afternoon.

Results: Men’s short program

“This season, I can’t count the number of times I have gone through the feeling of I don’t know if I can continue,” Zhou said. “So to push through and overcome my biggest obstacle, which is myself, and to perform like that, I’m very grateful.”

The top three had all positive Grades of Execution, even though Zhou was called for an under-rotation on the quad Lutz that opened his quad-triple combination.

And Brown’s GOEs were exceptional. Of the 63, there were 32 of the maximum plus-5 and 26 of plus-four.

That is the way Brown and his new coaches, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson, hope he can cut into the mathematical advantage the quad jumpers have.

Brown admitted to feeling a little shaky, which did not show in his skating.

“Sometimes, I will watch it [afterwards] and think, ‘Oh, it looked so much better than I felt,’” Brown said.

Chen, who hit a quad flip and a quad toe-triple toe, got 12.40 more points on his jumping passes than Brown did.

While he has utterly dominated U.S. men’s skating the past three seasons, Chen has made his position more complicated after beginning studies at Yale last fall.

“There were times when I was really struggling with them both, not sure how I was going to handle the two,” he said.

He has not lost all season. And Chen said his first semester grades included some A’s and Bs.

That’s extraordinary stuff.

MORE: Jason Brown planning quad attempt for free skate

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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