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Surfing legend Kelly Slater named to World Surfing Games team

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Kelly Slater‘s push to compete in the first Olympic surfing competition at age 48 took a step forward Monday when he was named to the U.S. team for the World Surfing Games, which will take place Sept. 7-15 in Miyazaki, Japan.

Surfers hoping to compete in the 2020 Olympics must first compete in the WSG either this year or next year unless they’re injured or ill.

The U.S. team also includes the top-ranked man and woman in the World Surf League: Kolohe Andino and Carissa Moore.

JEFFREYS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 19: Three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore of Hawaii wins the 2019 Corona Open J-Bay after winning the final at Supertubes on July 19, 2019 in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. (Photo by Pierre Tostee/WSL via Getty Images)

Moore also has an impressive resume, winning the WSL title as a teenager in 2011 and doing it again in 2013 and 2015.

The three-man team also includes Conner Coffin. Two-time WSL champion John John Florence is out with an ACL injury.

Courtney Conlogue and 17-year-old Caroline Marks join Moore on the women’s team. Conlogue was second in the tour standings behind Moore in 2015 and was runner-up again the next year.

Olympic qualification is based mostly on WSL rankings, with the top 10 eligible men and top eight eligible women (maximum two per country) automatically qualifying. But competing in the World Surfing Games is mandatory, per the International Surfing Association’s criteria:

“The Surfer must make him or herself available for their respective national team for participation in the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games; and (t)he Surfer must accept the nomination of his or her NF to take part, and must actually take part, in any or all of the above ISA World Surfing Games.”

Qualifying from the United States, one of the sport’s major powers, will be difficult because of the two-surfer maximum. Barring a catastrophic run of results, the U.S. qualifiers will come from the WSL rankings at the end of the year.

In the current men’s rankings, Andino is first, Florence is third despite his injury, Slater is eighth, and Coffin is tied for 12th. Seth Moniz is 14th. Moore leads the women’s rankings, with Lakey Peterson fourth, Marks fifth and Conlogue sixth. Malia Manuel is seventh.

Qualification for the WSG was based on WSL rankings through June 9 (four events) this year, which is why Peterson was not named to the team. But qualification for next year’s WSG will be based on the year-end standings this year, so whoever finishes first or second among U.S. surfers this year will make the Olympic team as long as he or she accepts the invitation to the WSG.

WSG results do not count toward WSL standings.

For countries that don’t hit the maximum number of Olympic berths through the WSL standings, the WSG this year and next will be two of the alternate pathways to the Games.

Though Miyazaki is hosting the WSG, it will not be the venue for the 2020 Games. Surfing’s Olympic debut will take place at Shidashita Beach, a 750-mile drive from Miyazaki.

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Kobe Bryant embraced the Olympics, on and off the court

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Kobe Bryant developed a special relationship with Team USA, international basketball and the Olympic Games themselves.

Bryant was among those who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Grief spread worldwide, showing the impact he had across international sport. Images of Bryant meeting Olympians from gymnastics, swimming, track and field, even Alpine skiing, some from him attending their competitions, dotted social media.

Bryant earned gold medals as a leader of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He said before debuting at the Games that he valued a gold medal above an NBA championship.

In 2008, he helped spur the Redeem Team to gold in Beijing. He sat down with NBC Sports’ Cris Collinsworth for an interview, describing what it meant to him to receive the USA jersey for the first time.

“I had goosebumps, and I actually just looked at it for a while,” said Bryant, who put off surgery on a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger to play in 2008. “I just held it there, and I laid it across my bed. I just stared at it for a few minutes. Just because, as a kid growing up, this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.”

Bryant’s first Olympic game came in a special environment — in Beijing against China.

“When I look up in the crowd, and I see all the USA flags waving and people chanting USA, it gives you goosebumps,” he said. “When I heard the national anthem, I teared up a little bit, and I had to gather myself.”

Bryant stayed close to the Olympic Movement in retirement.

He attended the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for women’s gymnastics, meeting the team members. He appeared at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards, helping raise money for the national governing body. He was the final voice in the Los Angeles Olympic bid presentation to the IOC two years ago.

Bryant’s last words in that video, before the IOC later awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles: “To have the Olympics here, and to have so many different cultures represented, would be a beautiful story to tell.”

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 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.