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Takeaways from U.S. Figure Skating Championships

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New champions. New records. In some cases, new faces. And for others, continued success.

Nathan Chen recorded his third consecutive win at nationals and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue made it two straight.

Alysa Liu, on the other hand, won her first title and was called “the future” of U.S. ladies’ skating. And Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc won the pairs event knowing the pressure is on their shoulders to win more spots for the U.S. at the world championships in March.

What does this all mean for the rest of the season? Or the years leading up to the Olympics?

Alysa Liu won’t compete again this season, but she says that gives her extra time to prepare for next year.

“Actually, I don’t know when my next competition is,” Liu told NBCSports.com/figure-skating on Sunday. “I’m actually going to Disneyland soon. I’m gonna do that and then I’m gonna practice, obviously. Try to improve everything.”

Liu, at 13, isn’t eligible for the world championships. (Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell are filling the U.S. ladies’ two spots in Saitama, Japan in March.) It’s reasonable to think that her first competition of next season could be on the Junior Grand Prix series. The U.S. is hosting the second stop on that circuit in Lake Placid, New York over Labor Day Weekend.

Speaking of Tennell and Bell, though, they’re competing at the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim, Calif. beginning next week. Then they’ll go on to the world championships where there will be pressure to, among other things, win back a third spot for U.S. ladies at Worlds.

Nathan Chen gets it done again

Chen’s dazzling 228.80-point free skate score and eye-popping 342.22 total score secured his third straight U.S. title. His coach, Rafael Arutunian, was the only one left unimpressed.

“Raf is always the overachiever,” Chen said. “That’s why I am with him. Of course, there are things I can improve on.”

We’ll see him compete one more time when he aims to defend his 2018 world title, this time, in what is expected to be in a stacked field. Many skaters took off from worlds last year after the Olympics, but this year, that’s not the case.

Brian Orser has already said his pupil, Yuzuru Hanyu, should be at worlds despite missing time this season with injury. Hanyu is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion.

U.S. ice dance is as strong as ever

Hubbell and Donohue are last year’s Worlds silver medalists and won the Grand Prix Final in December, the first U.S. team to win gold there since 2013.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates own two World medals from prior seasons, and feel “rejuvenated” and “reinvigorated” after being sidelined for 10 months due to injury.

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker won Four Continents last year and this year, won their first Grand Prix series gold medal and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

And that’s just the top three U.S. teams. Plus, they all train together in Montreal. If one team starts picking up the pace, or sneaking up the ranks, the other teams will see it coming.

“We are still incredibly lucky to have such depth in the U.S. field,” 2014 Olympic ice dance champion Charlie White told NBCSports.com/figure-skating. “The skating was just really phenomenal. The teams were in great shape, well prepared.”

Cain and LeDuc well aware of their role at Worlds

It will take a podium finish for U.S. pairs champions Cain and LeDuc to qualify the U.S. three spots at the 2020 World Championships. To earn two spots, they’ll have to finish inside the top 10 in March.

“We’ve been working toward that all year,” LeDuc said in an interview with us on Sunday.

“None of the pressure changes or anything like that,” Cain added. “Yes, we know now we’re the U.S. champions and we have a responsibility, but I think at this point we are ready to take on that responsibility. This is the year it was supposed to happen.”

Worlds, Four Continents still to come

Four Continents begins Feb. 5 in Anaheim, Calif. and invites skaters from essentially everywhere except Europe. The world championships begin in mid-March in Saitama, Japan.

Here’s a look at how many spots the U.S. has in each discipline at both events:

Worlds:

  • Ladies: 2
  • Men: 3
  • Dance: 3
  • Pairs: 1

Four Continents:

  • Ladies: 3
  • Men: 3
  • Dance: 3
  • Pairs: 3

MORE: Ice dance families host tailgate party outside Little Caesars Arena before free dance

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the 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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Italy’s Sofia Goggia gets World Cup downhill win

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Fresh off world championships, the women’s Alpine World Cup tour returned to the Swiss Alps for a bit of speed in the form of the downhill.

After finishing well off the world championship downhill podium in 15th, Italy’s Sofia Goggia was the fastest on the day in Crans-Montana.

Goggia who won the 2017-18 World Cup downhill title, was forced to put this season on ice after she injured her ankle in training ahead of the first event.

Today’s results are her best since her return to racing when she finished second in both the downhill and Super-G last month in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Despite her world championship downhill woes, Goggia didn’t leave Are empty handed, claiming silver in the Super-G.

Joining Goggia on the podium in Crans-Montana were two athletes skiing on home snow — Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen and Lara Gut-Behrami. The second place finish for Haehlen is the first World Cup podium appearance of her career, and for the two-time Olympian Gut-Behrami, her third podium finish of the 2018-19 season.

The newly-crowned world champion in women’s downhill, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec took a hard fall as the first skier out of the gate today. For the superstitious it should be noted that Stuhec finished 13th in both her downhill training runs in Crans-Montana and drew bib #1 for today’s race, but it was the woman wearing bib #13 who ended up on top of the podium.

 

The women return to racing tomorrow with the Alpine super combined, with the first run starting at 4:30 a.m. ET and the second at 7:30 a.m. ET. Watch live on Olympic Channel, OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold. Check out the schedule below for ways to watch this weekend’s remaining races.  

The men’s Super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria was cancelled earlier today after a storm swept in and dropped nearly a foot of new powder on the race course. Organizers will attempt to ready the mountain for Sunday’s giant slalom. Watch the first run live at 3:30 a.m. ET on OlympicChannel.com or using an NBC Sport Gold Snow Pass. The second run can be seen live on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel at 6:30 a.m. ET, as well as on NBC Sports Gold.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Bansko, Bulgaria; Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Sunday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 p.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2)* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

Norway’s Therese Johaug wins gold in return to world champs

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Norway’s seven-time world champion Therese Johaug won her first world title today since 2015 in the women’s Skiathlon at the 2019 Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria. Johaug crossed the finish line with a time of 36 minutes 54.5 seconds.

Johaug returned to racing this season after being served an 18-month drug suspension for testing positive for the steroid clostebol in 2016.

Johaug said the infraction was unintentional, and due to her use of a lip cream to treat a cold sore which, unknown to her, included the banned substance. The mistake would be costly for the three-time Olympic medalist, who had won gold in Vancouver in 2010 as well as a silver and bronze medal four years later in Sochi.  

Banned from competition, Johaug’s suspension forced her to miss the entire 2017-18 World Cup season, the 2017 World Championships as well as the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Johaug has been making up for lost time this season on the World Cup. Each time the 30-year-old Norwegian has appeared on the podium, she’s been at the top, winning nine races so far this season. And now she can add a world title to her list of accomplishments in 2019.

“I’ve been looking forward for this championship for over two years,” an emotional Johaug said after the race in Seefeld. “The last time I was in a championship was in Falun, four years ago. I’m training so much and working so hard for this, and all the team around me have helped me every time, so I’m really happy.”

Johaug crossed the finish line nearly a full minute ahead of silver medalist, and her countrywoman, Norway’s Ingvlid Flugstad Oestberg. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva finished off the podium, taking bronze.

Full results are here.

The men’s Skiathlon came down to a three-way battle with just 2km to go in the 30km race. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby made a late push to jump ahead of Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov on an uphill climb. Another Norwegian, Sjur Roethe was also keeping pace with the lead group. But as the trio neared the end, Sunby lost his lead when Roethe’s skis ran faster on a downhill section leading into the final stretch.

With all three racers within a ski’s length of one another, Roethe crossed the finish line first, just a tenth of a second ahead of Bolshunov who was able to overtake a gassed Sundby in the final push to the finish.

Check out this weekend’s remaining schedule for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and watch live on TV on Olympic Channel and online with OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold.

WORLD NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Seefeld, Austria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 5:00 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
8:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final* Olympic Channel
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M & W Team Sprint Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:45 a.m. Ski jumping: Men’s LH Team Final* OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M&W Team Sprint Finals* Olympic Channel
2 p.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint* Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Team Final Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. Cross-Country: Women’s Team Sprint Final* NBCSN

*Same-day delay