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Hanna Harrell talks taking on Russians at world junior championships

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Hanna Harrell placed fourth in the senior competition at the U.S. Championships in Detroit in January. We caught up with the skater, who will compete in the ladies’ short program on Friday at the world junior championships (streaming live online by the ISU).

Harrell skates her short program in a neon pink dress to “Bla Bla Bla Cha Cha Cha” by Petty Booka. She said she chose the song because of the way it builds. She can “show my slower skating and my fast, energetic movements in the second half,” she said.

And the color of Harrell’s costume didn’t hurt either: “I just wanted everyone to remember me, so I can make my first impression,” she said.

NBCSports.com/figure-skating spoke with Harrell in Detroit after the competition wrapped up.

What was your mindset coming into nationals? Did you exceed your own expectations?

Yes, because this was my first senior nationals. I wasn’t even expecting to place. I was just like, ‘I’m here to do my job. And I’m going to do my best.’ I did what I had to do. I didn’t even know I placed. I did! I’m just very excited.

You’re known for your jump technique, where you have two arms above your head. Why were you so determined to attempt the “Rippon” technique? 

When I watch the Russian skaters, they’re always doing something different. Most of the American skaters, they just stay with the basic arms to the chest. I always watch them do the Rippon style and I always thought that that was really cool. It makes a jump look more difficult and it looks very pretty. The moment I saw one I was like, ‘I want to try that. I’m going to learn how to do that.’ And I started working on it. Now I enjoy doing it.

Who was that Russian skater?

I’m not exactly sure. I’ve just been looking through Instagram on the explore page. The Russians would always come up.

How do you expect to feel when you get the chance to face the Russians [at World Juniors]?

Of course, I’ll be a little nervous. Feel a little intimidated, almost. Because the Russians are amazing, one of the top skaters at this moment. But my goal is just to focus on myself. It’s just such a great opportunity to be able to skate with such amazing jumpers and skaters.

You compete at nationals as a senior, and place fourth, but then get sent to junior worlds. What differences do you see between the two?  

It’s pretty weird for me. This is my first time doing this. What I’m doing is I’m just trying to get more experience and be able to skate with high level athletes and get more… learn from the other athletes, like skating more mature, skating like a senior skater so I can bring some of that into my junior program.

What other feedback have you gotten in terms of those things, like your artistry and skating more maturely?

Because this is my first time in senior, of course it’s still like a junior [skater]. It’s not there yet. I’m going to work on it and hope that it will become like a senior skater.

Are there senior skaters that you admire that you want to try and emulate?

Yes, for skating skills, Sasha Cohen. I’ve always looked up to her ever since I was little. Her skating skills are my favorite. I love watching her. I always watch her YouTube videos.

MORE: Ice Age: Should a country’s senior nationals include figure skaters frozen out of senior – or even junior – world championships?

As a reminder, you can watch 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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David Boudia wins U.S. title, qualifies for worlds after break from diving

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David Boudia, after a year away from diving, two more children, a concussion and a goodbye to the platform, is back in familiar territory. He’s on the U.S. team for the world championships.

Boudia, a 30-year-old, four-time Olympic medalist, outscored fellow Rio Olympian Michael Hixon to win the springboard at the U.S. Championships on Saturday.

The top two per individual event by cumulative score at nationals go to July’s worlds in South Korea. Boudia was in third place going into the finals but had the top Saturday score by 23.35 to leap onto the team with Hixon.

“It’s relieving, but in my mind, as an athlete, there’s a lot of work to be done before 2020,” Boudia said on NBCSN. “I have to learn new dives if I want to contend with the best in the world.”

Later Saturday, Rio Olympian Amy Cozad Magaña and Delaney Schnell made the world team in the women’s platform, with Schnell helping knock out Rio Olympian Jessica Parratto. Competition concludes Sunday with the women’s springboard and men’s platform.

Boudia, whose 72 career Olympic dives all came off the platform, switched to the more forgiving springboard after a February 2018 concussion.

He considered retiring after a third Olympics in Rio, where he earned synchro silver and individual bronze after an individual gold at London 2012. He even began a real-estate job in Indiana. But he announced a diving comeback in September 2017, saying he didn’t want to have any “what ifs” later in life.

Boudia then beat Hixon at the 2018 Winter Trials, proving he could master the new event. The other Rio Olympian on the springboard, Kristian Ipsen, has retired.

Boudia has competed at every Olympics and world championships since 2005, except in 2017 of course, and is the only U.S. diver to earn a medal in an individual Olympic event at either meet since 2009.

“I don’t think I have been that nervous since 2005,” Boudia said, according to TeamUSA.org. “Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five.”

Cozad Magaña, 28, placed seventh in synchro at the Rio Olympics and plans to retire after 2020. Schnell, 20, was sixth individually at the 2016 Olympic Trials and second at the 2017 world trials before placing 27th at her world debut two years ago.

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VIDEO: Relive Greg Louganis diving board accident on 30th anniversary

U.S. men’s rugby team qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

U.S. men's rugby sevens team
Mike Lee/KLC
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The U.S. became the first men’s rugby team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, clinching its spot Saturday during penultimate leg of this season’s World Series.

The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world, mathematically secured a place in the top four of the World Series final standings by advancing out of pool play in London. The knockout rounds are Sunday, but a top-eight finish was all that was necessary for Olympic qualification.

Now the U.S. can focus on a goal it didn’t have at the start of the year: winning the nation’s first World Series season title. It entered London with a slim, three-point lead over Olympic champion Fiji, one that would be erased if Fiji and the U.S. advance to Sunday’s final and Fiji wins.

Regardless, the season champion will be decided at the 10th and final World Series stop in Paris next weekend.

The Americans held onto the standings lead despite being without two stars — two-time World Player of the Year Perry Baker and Danny Barrett — the last three World Series stops. Baker and Barrett returned from injuries for the London leg.

Four years ago, the U.S. needed to go to a continental qualifier to earn in its place in Rio. Rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in 2016, 92 years after the traditional 15-a-side rugby last appeared at the Games. The Americans ended up ninth in Brazil, missing the quarterfinals on a tiebreaker.

World powers Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa are in position to join the U.S. as Olympic qualifiers through the World Series.

Seven more nations will qualify via continental tournaments later this year and a last-chance event in June 2020. Japan received an automatic spot as host nation.

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MORE: Nate Ebner on transition from Olympic rugby back to NFL