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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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Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said later. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from [Osaka], as well.”

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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