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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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At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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