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Stellato, Bartholomay’s Four Continents selection snub stuns coach

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By Colton Wood

DETROIT – Deanna Stellato walked into the mixed zone following her free skate with Nate Bartholomay on Saturday visibly upset over her performance.

“Probably the worst throw Salchow I’ve done all week,” she said. “It was a cruddy version of a run-through we do at home. We typically do sharper run-throughs at home on a daily basis.”

But through the disappointment, Stellato, 35, found light at the end of the tunnel, believing their bronze-medal performance would send her and Bartholomay to the Four Continents Championships (beginning Feb. 5 in Anaheim, Calif.).

“We wanted to go to Four Continents because we desperately need points, so I’ll take the win,” she said. “It’s not the placement I was looking for.”

Or so she thought.

On Sunday, it was announced that the top two pairs from U.S. Championships would be going to Four Continents.

Stellato and Bartholomay were left out, as the U.S. Figure Skating International Selection Committee chose Saturday’s fourth-place finishers, Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, over them for the third and final pair slot.

During his free skate with Kanye on Saturday, O’Shea missed his final lift. O’Shea thought his season was over.

“Sometimes you mess up when it counts most,” he said. “It’s hard. … I lost us 8.5 points-ish; cost us a trip anywhere else this season.”

Kayne and O’Shea received 126.81 points in the free skate, combining for a total score of 198.64, just 1.28 points from a spot on the podium.

But their performance was enough to send them to Anaheim.

“We skated our hearts out this week and performed our best two programs of the year,” said Jim Peterson, who coaches Stellato and Bartholomay, to NBCSports.com/figure-skating. “We are disappointed, what can I say? We are the U.S. bronze medalists. We defeated Kayne and O’Shea at nationals.”

Per U.S. Figure Skating, this is the selection criteria the committee votes on:

To create a pool of athletes to be considered for selection to the Four Continents Team, the International Committee will take into consideration placement, performance (which can include performance data) and the competitive field of the events listed below in priority order:

The events have been stratified into tiers from the highest value events in Tier 1 through the lowest value events in Tier 3. Events within each tier shall be evaluated at equal weight.

Tier 1

  • 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
  • 2018 ISU Grand Prix Final
  • 2018 ISU World Figure Skating Championships

Tier 2

  • 2018 Grand Prix Series Competitions
  • 2018 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships

Tier 3

  • 2018 Challenger Series Events and other senior international competitions after September 1, 2018
  • 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
  • 2018 World Junior Figure Skating Championships
  • 2018 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final

additional reporting by Lynn Rutherford 

MORE: Tennell, Bell headed to world championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships, Four Continents, and Worlds 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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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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