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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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40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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MORE: Japanese athlete’s bid to become oldest Olympian in history still alive

With four former champions in the mix, who can claim U.S. Championships pairs’ title?

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There have been four different U.S. pairs’ champions in the past four years. All four of those teams are in the field at this week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. With that in mind, who could get the nod to compete at the world championships in March?

The U.S. has two spots to fill, thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, who finished ninth at last year’s worlds.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier had the best fall of any U.S. pair, winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series. Denney and Frazier finished with silver medals at last year’s national championships, too. The team has previous experience at the world championships (2015: 12th; 2017: 20th).

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title last year after a season that was nearly sidelined by Cain-Gribble’s concussion in December 2018. As the solo U.S. representatives at the world championships, they succeeded in earning back two world berths for 2020.

This season, they won two B-level competitions and finished fourth and fifth at their Grand Prix assignments. LeDuc said last week that despite their win at Golden Spin in December, “there was a little bit of room for improvement, which is exactly what we want from a competition going into nationals.”

“We feel like we’ve improved a lot as far as what we’re able to take on mentally because we know that this is going to be an intense week,” Cain-Gribble said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve never had to do this before, where we’re coming in and we’re already the reigning champions. We’ve never come in with that title before. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about it and what that feeling is, but overall their main thing was, ‘Be prepared. Prepare yourself beyond what you can even imagine. When you get there, just go on autopilot and do your thing.’”

PyeongChang Olympic team event bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim haven’t been in top form since the Games. Later in 2018, they split from short-lived coach Aljona Savchenko in Germany and moved to California.

They finished an all-time low of seventh at last year’s nationals and were not assigned to any events later in the season. In their off-season, Chris underwent wrist surgery. The couple also added Rafael Arutunian to their coaching team to address their jumping abilities. Their season consisted of a silver medal at a B-level competition, followed by two Grand Prix assignments where they finished fourth and seventh.

“We feel that many people probably have kind of written us off, because we’re an old married couple and we’re kind of labeled ‘can’t get it together,’” Scimeca Knierim said after finishing fourth at Skate Canada this fall. “That’s almost an advantage, because I feel like for so long, we were considered the front-runners. I still believe we are. We’re trying to show we can get it together.”

The last time the Knierims competed at a nationals in Greensboro, in 2015, they won the first of their two titles. That year, they notched their highest placement (seventh) across five total trips to the world championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea won their national title in 2016 and were also sent on their only trip to the world championships where they finished 13th. In 2017, Kayne underwent knee surgery, but they returned to the national podium in 2018 and won silver. Last year, they finished fourth after a disastrous free skate.

This season, they collected a silver medals and a fourth place finish at two B-level competitions as well as a pair of sixth-place finishes on the Grand Prix.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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