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What to watch in Olympic sports this week

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It’s the busiest time of the winter sports season with world championships in both alpine skiing and freestyle skiing/snowboarding headlining this week in Olympic sports.

At the World Alpine Skiing Championships in Are, Sweden, three-time Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn is expected to close out her career. Vonn, the most successful female skier in World Cup history, plans to retire after the downhill, which airs live on Sunday at 6:25 a.m. (ET) on NBCSN/Olympic Channel. Mikaela Shiffrin opened her 2019 Worlds with a win in Tuesday’s super-G. The 23-year-old plans to skip the super combined and downhill before returning to the slopes for the giant slalom and slalom during the second week of competition.

Five-thousand miles away in Utah, the best freestyle skiers and snowboarders are also looking to earn world titles. The U.S. team is headlined by 2018 Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim, who is expected to compete in Friday’s halfpipe competition (1:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBCSportsGold).

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP — Are, Sweden

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 5:30 a.m. Women’s Super Combined Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
9:00 a.m. Women’s Super Combined Downhill* NBCSN
10:15 a.m. Women’s Super Combined Slalom NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 6:25 a.m. Men’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
3:30 p.m. Men’s Downhill* NBC
6:30 p.m. Men’s Downhill* NBCSN
Sunday 6:25 a.m. Women’s Downhill NBCSN/Olympic Channel NBCSN/Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Women’s Downhill* NBC
10:30 p.m. Women’s Downhill* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

BIATHLON WORLD CUP — Canmore, Alberta

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 2:20 p.m. Men’s 15km Short Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:45 p.m. Women’s 12.5km Short Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Men’s 15km Short Individual & Women’s 12.5km Short Individual* Olympic Channel
Friday 2:30 p.m. Men’s 4×7.5km Relay OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:45 p.m. Women’s 4x6km Relay OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 p.m. Men’s 15km Short Individual & Women’s 12.5km Short Individual* NBCSN
9:00 p.m. Men’s 4×7.5km Relay* Olympic Channel
10:00 p.m. Women’s 4x6km Relay* Olympic Channel
Saturday 1:00 p.m. Men’s 10km Sprint OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:00 p.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:00 p.m.* Men’s 10km Sprint Olympic Channel
700 p.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint* Olympic Channel

*Same-day and next-day delay

FIE FENCING GRAND PRIX — Doha, Qatar; Torino, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 8:00 a.m. From Doha, Qatar* Olympic Channel
Sunday 12:30 p.m. From Torino, Italy OlympicChannel.com

*Pre-recorded

FOUR CONTINENTS FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Anaheim, California

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 3:30 p.m. Ladies’ Short Program NBC Sports Gold
5:00 p.m. Ladies’ Short Program NBCSN NBCSN
9:15 p.m. Men’s Short Program NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. Men’s Short Program NBCSN NBCSN
Friday 2:45 p.m. Pairs’ Short Program NBC Sports Gold
6:00 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold
10:00 p.m. Ladies’ Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
Midnight Ladies’ Free Skate NBCSN
Saturday 5:00 p.m. Pairs’ Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
10:00 p.m. Men’s Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
11 p.m. Men’s Free Skate NBCSN NBCSN
Sunday 4:00 p.m. Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
Midnight Free Dance NBCSN

FREESTYLE SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS — Park City, Utah

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 4:00 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Aerials Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
5:00 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Slopestyle NBCSN
9:00 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Aerials Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Thursday 12:00 a.m. Freestyle Skiing: Aerials* NBCSN
9:00 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Team Aerials NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Friday 1:00 p.m. Snowboarding: Halfpipe NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
9:00 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Moguls NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 1:00 p.m. Freeski & Snowboarding: Halfpipe NBC NBC/NBC Sports Gold
9:00 p.m. Freestyle Skiing: Dual Moguls Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 2:00 a.m. Freestyle Skiing: Dual Moguls* NBCSN
1:00 p.m. Snowboarding: Slopestyle Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
4:30 p.m. Snowboarding: Slopestyle* NBC

*Same-day delay

LUGE WORLD CUP — Oberhof, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 3:35 a.m. Doubles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
5:05 a.m. Doubles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
6:35 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
8:15 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
1:00 p.m. Doubles* Olympic Channel
1:30 p.m. Men’s Singles* Olympic Channel
Sunday 3:00 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
4:25 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
7:15 a.m. Team Relay OlympicChannel.com
7:00 p.m. Women’s Singles* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

PARA ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Kranjska Gora, Slovenia; Veysonnaz, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 4:00 a.m. Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:00 a.m. Giant Slalom (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
Sunday 4:00 a.m. Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
6:30 a.m. Giant Slalom (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com

SAILING WORLD CUP — Miami, Florida

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Sunday 6:00 p.m. From Miami, Florida* Olympic Channel

*Pre-recorded

SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP — Feldberg, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 4:00 a.m. Snowboard Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 4:00 a.m. Team Snowboard Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

SKI JUMPING WORLD CUP — Ljubno, Slovenia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 8:00 a.m. Women’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
2:00 p.m. Women’s Individual* Olympic Channel
Saturday 8:00 a.m. Women’s Team OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Women’s Team* Olympic Channel
Sunday 8:00 a.m. Women’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Women’s Individual* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

WORLD SINGLE DISTANCES SPEED SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Inzell, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday TBA Day 1 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Friday TBA Day 2 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 2* Olympic Channel
Saturday TBA Day 3 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 3* Olympic Channel
Sunday TBA Day 4 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 4* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

SHORT TRACK WORLD CUP — Torino, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 9:00 a.m. World Cup Final Day 1 NBC Sports Gold
4:30 p.m. World Cup Final Day 1* Olympic Channel
Sunday 9:00 a.m. World Cup Final Day 2 NBC Sports Gold
11:00 p.m. World Cup Final Day 2* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

ISA SURFING

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 8:00 p.m. Season Review* Olympic Channel

*Pre-recorded

IAAF WORLD INDOOR TOUR & MILLROSE GAMES — Madrid, Spain; New York City, New York

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday TBA IAAF from Madrid, Spain NBC Sports Gold
11:00 p.m. IAAF from Madrid, Spain* Olympic Channel
Saturday 4:30 p.m. Millrose Games NBC NBC/NBC Sports Gold

*Same-day delay

2021 Burton U.S. Open snowboarding event canceled

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The Burton U.S. Open, snowboarding’s most storied event, canceled its 2021 competition due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“The truth is, we just can’t be sure it will be safe from a public health standpoint for us to host the event in 2021,” a statement read.

The U.S. Open, held since 1982, is usually around the first weekend in March, making it the season-ending event for many riders. Halfpipe champions include Shaun WhiteChloe KimKelly Clark and Ross Powers, who also earned Olympic gold medals.

Other 2020-21 winter sports events affected by the coronavirus pandemic include figure skating’s Junior Grand Prix. The first two stops of that eight-event series, scheduled for late August and early September in Canada and Slovakia, have been canceled.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation, which is due to put on the February 2021 World Alpine Skiing Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, made a formal request on Monday to postpone the event until March 2022, one month after the next Winter Olympics in Beijing. The International Ski Federation (FIS) council will decide July 1.

MORE: Takeaways from abbreviated 2019-20 winter sports season

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Kara Eaker eschews fear, back on balance beam to resume Olympic quest

Kara Eaker
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Kara Eaker hasn’t qualified for an Olympics yet, but she is already part of a historic club of U.S. gymnasts. The list goes, most recently, Eaker, Simone BilesKyla RossAly RaismanNastia LiukinShawn JohnsonShannon Miller and Dominique Dawes.

Those are the women who qualified for back-to-back balance beam finals at the sport’s highest level: Olympics or world championships. For Eaker (pronounced like acre), they came in her first two years as a senior gymnast in 2018 and 2019 (Biles and Johnson are the only other U.S. women to do that in the last 25 years.)

This was supposed to be Eaker’s Olympic year, but the coronavirus pandemic postponed the Games to 2021, after her Missouri high school graduation. It also kept her out of the gym for nearly two months until the GAGE Center reopened last week in Blue Springs, near Kansas City.

It was the longest Eaker had been off a regulation beam (and out of the gym) since she could remember. She began competing at age 5.

Eaker’s mom, Katherine, said her daughter never feared the four-inch-wide beam, but Eaker said the thought of returning last week “was definitely kind of scary at first.” That is, until one of her coaches eased her back with basics and work on a floor beam, one that’s not raised as high as the four feet you see in competition.

“By the time we were ready, and she was comfortable putting us back up there, it wasn’t scary,” Eaker said. “It felt normal.”

Eaker, adopted from a Chinese orphanage around age 1 in 2003 (her parents’ travel then delayed by SARS), excels on the senior elite stage with a level of normalcy.

Which is not entirely normal in this sport. She lives with her family, 10 minutes from her world-class gym. She still attends regular high school. She’s committed to continue gymnastics at the University of Utah after the Tokyo Olympics.

“I started out in dance, actually,” said Eaker, whose hobbies include robotics and calligraphy. “A little, little girl with the stuffed animal, twirling around in the dance room. And then we had our little recital and I just wasn’t … I couldn’t do the standing in front of an audience kind of thing.”

Her mom believes it was around Christmas. Eaker was 3 or 4.

“She just froze like a deer in the headlights, and all the other girls froze, too, because they were used to following her,” Katherine said. “Then she tried gymnastics. We had to drag her out [of the gym]. From then on, it was always, she’s first one in, last one out. Still is.”

The family, including Eaker’s father, Mark, retired Navy and a flight engineer, and younger sister, Sara, moved three times within Missouri in part to get Kara closer to GAGE to pursue what would eventually become an Olympic dream.

Gymnastics meets were appointment TV before Eaker entered kindergarten. She watched the Beijing Olympics, or perhaps an even earlier meet, while dancing around the living room in a leotard. Sometimes she mimicked the gold medalists by doing back bends. She continued to watch Beijing highlights, with Liukin and Johnson, on replay on YouTube.

Back at the gym, Eaker developed with the help of her coaches, plus future University of Nebraska gymnast Catelyn Orel, her “gym mom” under the GAGE program to pair older and younger athletes. Orel was a state champion on beam. Eaker proved a natural, too.

“A lot of the girls would get up there and have trouble balancing, but she just always seemed to do it just like she was on the floor,” her mom said. “She’s never really had a fear. Some girls get up there and are nervous. She just never seemed to be that way.”

In 2018, Eaker was 15, old enough to start competing on the senior level with the likes of Biles. Exactly 10 years after she would have watched Johnson win the Beijing Olympic beam title, Eaker finished second on beam at nationals behind Biles. She was invited to the world championships team selection camp, where she had the top beam score and placed sixth in the all-around. Six gymnasts would be chosen by a committee to travel to the world championships.

Eaker didn’t expect to make the team. In a large meeting with coaches and staff, the roster was announced. Eaker made it as the youngest member.

“It was a goal, but there were so many other girls and it was my first year as a senior,” she said. “I was very happy and surprised to make that team.”

Eaker again won beam at the 2019 World Championships selection camp. If Eaker endured adversity those first two years, it came at worlds.

In 2018, she fell on her mount in the beam final. The rest of her routine was medal-worthy gymnastics. She waited an eternal three minutes for her score, which placed her sixth. Eaker’s routine from the team final earlier that week would have earned silver.

In 2019, Eaker again qualified for the eight-woman beam final. The U.S. federation submitted an inquiry on her qualifying score, contesting a lower start value given to her. That backfired. Judges lowered Eaker’s score even more upon review, which took her out of the final. However, another gymnast who had qualified later withdrew due to injury. Eaker was back in the final, where she placed fourth.

She was asked afterward what she would take away from the meet.

“Just the experience of it all,” she said, composed. “How it makes me feel. How to use that [in the future].”

In 2021, Eaker will have to prove to a selection committee that she can be reliable on all four apparatuses. The Olympic team event size is four — with three gymnasts going per apparatus in the Olympic final — down from five in 2016, putting a greater emphasis on the all-around. Eaker could also be a candidate for one separate spot in individual events only.

“I definitely want to be seen as a great beam worker, but I also need to be a great all-arounder because they’re going to be looking at not just your one event,” said Eaker, who was third in the all-around at the 2019 Worlds selection camp. “You have to be able to benefit the team with your other events, even if they aren’t as strong as your [best] one.”

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