Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu will skip fall Grand Prix

Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu
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Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu both plan to skip the fall Grand Prix series, they confirmed to NBCSports.com/figure-skating. Neither of their names appear in U.S. Figure Skating’s International Selection Pool for the 2019-20 season, though the list is subject to change.

“I have not regularly trained in about a year and I haven’t felt the drive to get back into a regular training environment yet,” Wagner told OlympicTalk when asked how she came to the decision. “I would only consider competing on the Grand Prix circuit if I felt conditioned and prepared.”

Wagner is a 14-time Grand Prix series medalist and won three medals at the Grand Prix Final, which she qualified for five times. She last competed at U.S. nationals in 2018 and has since taken on coaching and made her broadcast debut.

Nagasu last competed at the 2018 World Championships and had hip surgery in September. She was the first American woman to land a triple Axel at the Olympics, where she helped Team USA to a bronze medal in the team event. She also competed at the 2010 Olympics, finishing fourth.

She told OlympicTalk that she relates to the recently-retired Missy Franklin, who wanted to move on with her competitive life after undergoing surgery.

“Loop, flip and Lutz were my best jumps and right now, Sal and toe are my best jumps,” Nagasu said. “I very much dislike that. I’m a creature of habit. I’m just trying to get back into my habitat.

“It was really difficult to go from going to the Olympics, not going and then going again. I think I wanna come back for myself. I want my elements back. Maybe I’ll pull a Daisuke Takahashi. Who knows?”

In 2018, Takahashi ended a four-year competitive retirement with a return to Japanese national-level competitions only. When he was offered a spot at the world championships, he declined.

Nagasu said she won’t compete in the 2022 Olympics, if she does come back at all.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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