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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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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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