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More mature Mariah Bell has more momentum this year ahead of world championships

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Mariah Bell took bronze at the U.S. Championships for the second time in January, where she said she was comforted by the presence of her boyfriend, parents, friends, and extended family.

“I have my parents and that’s so awesome that they can come,” she told NBCSports.com/figure-skating after the competition wrapped up in Detroit. “But it’s nice… I live with him. It’s very ‘every day.’ It feels not so huge.”

She then placed sixth at the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim in February – essentially a local competition for the California-based skater.

Her next stop is the world championships in Saitama, Japan from March 18-24, where she’ll look to improve upon a 12th place finish from Worlds in 2018.

Here’s what Bell said to NBCSports.com/figure-skating in Detroit about her nationals performances, how her maturity helped prepare her for the competition, and the easiest part about creating her costumes this season.

How do you think you measured up to the goals you set for this U.S. Championships?

I’ve had a little bit of time to look back. It’s a little frustrating to know, obviously, the difference between winning and not winning would’ve been Lutz, the fall, or the mistake in the short. But I’m really proud of how everything went.

It was tough to skate last. It’s very different for me. I’ve never done that before. When I drew that I was like, ‘Okay, gonna be different.’ But it’s also super cool to challenge yourself in those ways.

Did you hear the scores and the audience and all of that?

I didn’t hear anybody else except for obviously Alysa [Liu, the eventual champion]. I was listening to music, so I wasn’t really paying attention. I totally anticipated her getting a huge score. She’s doing two triple Axels! She’s so solid. I wasn’t surprised or anything. I was like, ‘This is exactly what I expected, it’s all good.’

Maybe in years past, I wouldn’t have been able to focus back in on myself, which I feel like I did. That’s the part that I think I’ve been working on a lot as I grow up in this sport.

Do you feel more mature in yourself and in your skating, if you compare nationals this year to nationals last year?

Absolutely. I think that comes from more time spent with my coach. I also had a much better season this year than I did last year at this time. I did well on my Grand Prixes. I did well at both my senior Bs.

Overall, I felt like I had a lot of great momentum coming into these championships. It can be easy to get overwhelmed but the bottom line was I just had to do what I’d been doing all season.

That’s the sort of maturity that I think I’ve gained this season. I probably wouldn’t have been able to just relax and be like, ‘Okay, I just have to do what I do every day, or what I’ve done this season, here.’ It’s a much different mindset that I approached this competition with.

Do you feel like you’re more of a top dog at the rink now?

I wouldn’t say top dog. I train with Nathan [Chen] occasionally, whenever he’s back [from Yale University]. Michal Brezina, he went to the [Grand Prix] Final, a really great skater from the Czech Republic. We have a top Japanese girl who unfortunately didn’t have a great nationals, but she’s a really great skater. We have a top Korean girl who just got second at her nationals.

I’m surrounded by a lot of great skating. I do have a little more experience which helps me. It’s really cool to train with them because they really push me. I’m not someone who’s like, ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ but I’ll be like, I’m starting to feel a little fatigued but they’re still going, so I can do a little bit more.

What was the creative process like with your costumes this season?

I started working with Lisa McKinnon. She did all of Ashley [Wagner]’s dresses. This is my first year working with her. She sort of does it all. You go in, you give her a piece of music. She’s very open to suggestions. I didn’t have any. I was like, whatever you think. I talked a little bit with [short program choreographer] Adam [Rippon] about maybe what he would kind of want, and also with [free skate choreographer] Shae-Lynn [Bourne].

I had sort of an idea, but she really took over. Every dress that she’s made that I’ve seen is stunning. I just feel really lucky to get to work with her. It’s nice she was in LA, so it wasn’t far for fittings. Literally, I got measured, fit, got the fittings done, they fit perfectly, and she did the crystals. And super easy!

Sometimes skaters go through two or three costumes in a season.

Yes! And that’s what happened to me last year. I was going through different programs and dresses! And this year it was like, organized and got taken care of fast.

MORE: Bradie Tennell on her improved artistry this season

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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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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