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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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IOC group proposes Olympic ‘host’ can be multiple countries

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International Olympic Committee members will decide next month whether to tweak the definition of an Olympic host to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in announcing the IOC’s executive board approved the measure. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

It’s one of six proposed changes by a working group chaired by Australian IOC member John Coates to examine the bid process. Another is to make the timing of Olympic host city elections more flexible. Typically, hosts are elected seven years before the Games, though two years ago an exception was made in the double awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Bach repeated that the proposals are “to avoid producing too many losers as we had it in the past candidature procedures.”

The IOC previously said in 2014, in announcing Agenda 2020, that it “will allow events held outside the host city or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.”

This shift manifests in Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid plan to have sliding sports in Sigulda, Latvia, home of the nearest existing track for bobsled, luge and skeleton, rather than building a costly new track in Sweden.

IOC members will vote to choose the 2026 Winter Games host next month. The finalists are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, after five other potential candidates were dropped for various reasons.

There is precedent for events held far from the Olympic host city. In 1956, Melbourne held the Summer Games and had equestrian events in Stockholm due to quarantine laws in Australia. Similarly, equestrian at the 2008 Beijing Games was held in Hong Kong.

Soccer matches are often held in cities across the host country. Recent Winter Olympics have had mountain events in a different city or area than arena events.

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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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