Nathan Chen will skip Four Continents, plans to defend world title in March

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Nathan Chen will go to the world championships to attempt to defend his title, U.S. Figure Skating announced on Sunday.

But he will not compete at the Four Continents Championships that begin Feb. 5 in Anaheim, Calif. Chen won Four Continents in 2017.

The two-time Grand Prix Final champion won his third consecutive national title earlier Sunday.

Chen will be joined by 2019 U.S. medalists Vincent Zhou (silver) and Jason Brown (bronze) at Worlds, held March 18-24 in Saitama, Japan.

Zhou, Brown, and pewter medalist (fourth place) Tomoki Hiwatashi will compete at Four Continents. Hiwatashi has always looked up to Chen, Zhou and Brown, and told NBCSports.com/figure-skating:

“(The top three) have always been there, ever since I was juvenile. When I got first (place) in juvenile, Vincent got first in intermediate. Jason was already junior or senior, Nathan was novice first place.”

Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell were named to the world team on Saturday. Ice dance medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and newly-crowned pair champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were also named to the team.

MORE: Costume drama: Jason Brown’s apparel odyssey

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S., Four Continents and World 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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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”