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U.S. sending world medalists Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue to World Team Trophy

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Team USA is among the six best international figure skating teams and qualified for the World Team Trophy, the International Skating Union announced on Sunday. The event takes place this year April 11-14 in Fukuoka, Japan.

The U.S. is sending Mariah Bell, Bradie Tennell, Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, pair team Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, and ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, U.S. Figure Skating announced Thursday.

Chen and Zhou shared the World Championships podium last week, earning gold and silver in the men’s discipline, respectively. Hubbell and Donohue won their second consecutive ice dance medal, a bronze this year.

The biennial event brings together eight skaters per team, consisting of two men, two ladies, one pair and one ice dance team for a competition similar to the Olympic team event. The U.S. has won two straight bronze medals at the Olympics in the team event, yet has won the World Team Trophy three times.

Russia leads the standings with 9,038 points, followed by the U.S. (7,752), Japan (6,991), France (5,541), Italy (4,344) and Canada (4,217).

Points are scored using a scale based on the ISU World Standing points accumulated throughout the season. The World Team Trophy is where skaters can let loose and cheer for their teammates in elaborately decorated team cheering boxes.

“It is always a great pleasure to be able to compete in Japan,” Chen said after winning his second consecutive world title there last week, on spring break during his second semester at Yale University. “It so, so cool and awesome to compete in front of such a loud crowd.

The World Team Trophy will stream on the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold.

Yuzuru Hanyu, who won silver at his home World Championships in Japan, won’t compete for Team Japan at the World Team Trophy. He announced Monday that he’ll instead continue to rehab his lingering ankle injury, which dates back to November.

The rest of Japan’s home team will include Kaori Sakamoto, Rika Kihira, Keiji Takana, Shoma Uno, plus pair Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto and ice dancers Riku Miura and Shoya Ichihashi.

Team Russia will include Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Sofia Samodurova, Mikhail Kolyada, Alexander Samarin, and pair Natalia Zabiyako and Alexander Enbert, plus ice dancers Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.

MORE: By any measure, Nathan Chen’s performance at Worlds matches standard for transcendent greatness

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2018-19 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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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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