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Nathan Chen learning from the ‘chaos’ of his first year balancing Yale University and elite skating

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Nathan Chen spoke to NBCSports.com/figure-skating before skating in the Stars on Ice show in Providence on Saturday. The two-time world champion and three-time U.S. Champion is participating in some of the shows on tour this year while studying for final exams.

He noted that this year, he learned a lot both inside and outside of the classroom, and on and off the ice. He’ll use all of that to have an even better season next year, where he plans to compete on the Grand Prix circuit and juggle his sophomore year at Yale University.

But first, he’ll spend the summer traveling, touring, and working on programs for next season.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Your classes must be winding down.

Yeah. I just finished classes yesterday and then right now I’m just studying for finals.

This show is taking place in Providence, pretty close to Yale. Do you expect to have any friends to come?

Actually, today’s Spring Fling at Yale which is basically just like a big party where there’s a lot of live music, everyone’s hanging out. It’s a time to decompress from studying slash get ready for more studying in the next few days. I don’t think many people will come down here. But at the same time, it’s great to be able to be so close to New Haven and that definitely helps with traveling and not having to feel as though I’m so far away from everyone.

At the show in Hartford last year, there were a lot of Yale banners in the audience.

That was super nice. I thought that was really sweet.

Have you been able to do some of the stereotypical New England things, like apple picking?

I have not actually! I hit up the whole restaurant scene around New Haven. I’ve been to Pepe’s, I’ve been to Sally’s, been to Talayna’s, a lot of these little pizza places. I really like that actually. Yale’s campus is so beautiful and there’s so many things to do on campus. You’re never gonna really get bored. But at the same time, you have like other places around New England that you can check out. I’ve been to Boston. Probably gonna go to New York next week with some friends. It’s nice to have access to these major cities as well.

Where will you spend your summer?

I will be mostly in California; however, I am gonna spend some time traveling into Japan, into some other places for shows, for choreography, for other things.

Who are you going to for your choreography?

I think the same as this year. I already talked to them. So, I’m most likely working with them again as long as they’re OK scheduling-wise. But I think Shae [Lynn Bourne] and Marie [-France Dubreuil] have definitely helped my skating develop a lot. I really enjoy working with them so I’m definitely going to try to do that.

What hints can you give us about music choices?

I honestly don’t even know. I haven’t even talked to them about that yet. I’m not sure.

Is it your plan to compete on the Grand Prix series again in the fall?

Absolutely. Yeah. As of right now, I’m still trying to figure out schooling. But I am planning on continuing school and skating, basically the same as this year.

Have you spoken with other skaters, like Olympic teammates Karen Chen or Vincent Zhou, about trying to balance college and elite skating? [Editor’s note: Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou have heavily hinted they’ll be attending college in the near future.]

I talked to Karen a little bit. But it’s hard for me to give them a lot of advice because every school is different. They have to talk to their specific advisers and people on their campus to know that they have access to certain things like the rink, and make sure that the area has other training sites that you could potentially go to. Every school’s curriculum is a little different. So, fortunately, with Yale, they’ve adopted a system where I’m able to skate and do school at the same time. It’s hard for me to really say.

What are you performing on the Stars on Ice tour?

I’m still gonna continue my short program that I’ve been doing all season. I might change that depending on if I have enough time to choreograph something new. The other one is “Next To Me.” It’s a short program that I choreographed myself a few days before I headed out to Worlds. I had fun with it. I think it’s an interesting piece of music and I really like listening to it outside of skating. I thought it’d be fun to skate to.

We were able to get your immediate reaction right after winning the world title, but has being two-time world champion sunk in? How do you evaluate your season now that you’re a little bit removed from it?

I’m happy with my season. I mean, there’s definitely a lot of things I think I could have done better. But in terms of results, there’s nothing more that I could’ve wanted from the season. I’m really, really happy with it.

But thinking into the future, I know there’s a lot of things that I wanna clean up in terms of scheduling. Of course, I had to do that because I didn’t know how to manage the two. The first semester was just kinda chaos. The second semester has been a lot more structured. As long as I can continue developing on the structure that I’ve learned from second semester, I think I’ll be pretty good.

MORE: Michelle Kwan jokes about Nathan Chen’s skateboarding across Yale University campus

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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Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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