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Shiffrin, seeking fourth straight world title, highlights Olympic action this week

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Two-time Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin has already claimed one title at the World Alpine Skiing Championships in Are, Sweden (in the first race of the competition, super-G), but her two best events are still ahead: the 23-year-old is expected to compete for her first world title in giant slalom on Thursday after winning Olympic gold in the event last year. And on Saturday, she will go for a fourth straight slalom title, trying to become the first skier to win four consecutive world titles in the same event.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety is expected to highlight the U.S. men’s field in giant slalom. The second run of that event will air live on NBCSN Friday at 11 a.m. ET.

And a trio of Olympic medalists in freestyle skiing headline the U.S. contingent at the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding World Cup in Calgary, Alberta: two-time Olympic champion David Wise, Sochi gold medalist Maddie Bowman and 2014 Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy. Coverage of ski halfpipe will air live Saturday on Olympic Channel at 9 p.m.

 

WORLD ALPINE SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Are, Sweden

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 8:00 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1)* NBCSN
11:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Friday 8:00 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:00 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) NBCSN NBCSN
11:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 5:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1)* NBCSN
8:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
1:00 p.m. Women’s Slalom* NBC
Sunday 5:00 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1)* NBCSN
8:00 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold

*Same-day delay

BIATHLON WORLD CUP — Salt Lake City, Utah (Soldier Hollow)

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 1:00 p.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Friday 1:00 p.m. Men’s 10km Sprint NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 12:00 p.m. Women’s Pursuit Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
4:00 p.m. Men’s Pursuit Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 1:00 a.m. Women’s Pursuit* NBCSN
12:00 p.m. Single Mixed Relay Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
4:00 p.m. 2x6km + 2×7.5km Mixed Relay Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 p.m. 2x6km + 2×7.5km Mixed Relay* NBCSN

*Next-day and same-day delay

BOBSLED AND SKELETON WORLD CUP — Lake Placid, New York

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 8:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
10:00 a.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 2) NBCSN NBCSN
1:00 p.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
2:00 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:15 p.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
4:15 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
9:00 p.m. From Lake Placid, New York* NBCSN
Saturday 9:00 a.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
10:45 a.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
1:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:00 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. From Lake Placid, New York* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING WORLD CUP — Cogne, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Sprint Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:45 a.m. Women’s 10km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Men’s 15km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
2:00 p.m. Women’s 10km* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

SHOW JUMPING WORLD CUP: NORTH AMERICAN LEAGUE — Wellington, Florida; Valle de Bravo, Mexico

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 12:00 p.m. From Wellington, Florida* NBCSN
Sunday 11:00 a.m. From Valle de Bravo, Mexico* Olympic Channel

*Pre-recorded

U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 2:30 p.m. Exhibition* NBC

*Pre-recorded

FOUR CONTINENTS FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 4:00 p.m. Ladies’ & Men’s Free Skate* NBC

*Pre-recorded

FREESTYLE SKIING AND FREESKI WORLD CUP — Feldberg, Germany; Moscow, Russia; Calgary, Alberta

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 3:45 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 a.m. Aerials OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Aerials* Olympic Channel
9:00 p.m. Halfpipe Olympic Channel OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 5:30 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

*Same-day delay

SKI JUMPING WORLD CUP — Willingen, Germany; Oberstdorf, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 9:45 a.m. Men’s Team OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 p.m. Men’s Team* Olympic Channel
Saturday 7:00 a.m. Women’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. Men’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:00 p.m. Women’s Individual* Olympic Channel
6:30 p.m. Men’s Individual* Olympic Channel
Sunday 7:00 a.m. Women’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:15 a.m. Men’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 p.m. Women’s Individual* Olympic Channel
7:00 p.m. Men’s Individual* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

WORLD SINGLE DISTANCE SPEED SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Inzell, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 10:30 p.m. Day 3* NBCSN
11:30 p.m. Day 4* NBCSN

*Pre-recorded

WORLD INDOOR TRACK & FIELD TOUR — Birmingham, England

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 8:30 a.m. Indoor Track & Field NBC Sports Gold
Midnight Indoor Track & Field NBCSN

Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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