Shaun White, Mikaela Shiffrin among dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s decade this week. Here are 10 Winter Olympic athletes who dominated the last 10 years …

Marit Bjørgen, Norway
Cross-Country Skiing
Eight Olympic gold medals in the 2010s
Broke career Winter Olympic medals record

A strong argument can be made that Bjørgen was the greatest Olympian of the 2010s — Summer or Winter. Her medal total for the decade — eight golds, 13 overall — would alone tie the record for most career Winter Olympic medals. She came back from childbirth to earn five medals, two golds, at the PyeongChang Olympics before retiring. That included winning the Games-closing 30km freestyle by a whopping 109 seconds, the greatest margin for any Olympic cross-country race since 1980.

Natalie Geisenberger, Germany
Luge
Six Olympic or world singles titles between 2013-19
Won the last seven World Cup season titles

Geisenberger, a skiing-to-sliding convert, won the Sochi Olympic title by 1.139 seconds, the largest margin in any Olympic luge event since 1964. In a stretch from 2012-15, she won 23 of her 29 Olympic, World Cup and world championships starts. Her PyeongChang defense was also impressive, winning by a margin greater than the one that separated second place from sixth.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Figure Skating
2014, 2018 Olympic champion
First skater to score 100 points in a short program, 200 in a free skate, 300 overall

Hanyu, then 14, was 12th at the 2009 World Junior Championships won by Adam Rippon. The next season, he was the world junior champion, setting the tone for a quadrennium in which he would rise to become the second teen to win the Olympic men’s singles title. From there, Hanyu combined jumping and artistry like no other skater, winning two world titles, another Olympic title and, the last five years, never finishing worse than second in a competition.

Marcel Hirscher, Austria
Alpine Skiing
Seven combined individual Olympic or world titles in the 2010s
Eight straight World Cup overall titles

The defining male skier of the decade. Hirscher may not have enjoyed Olympic success until PyeongChang (winning the super combined and giant slalom), but he captured an arguably more coveted crown every year from 2012 through 2019 — World Cup overall champion. Nobody else in history bagged more than six World Cup overalls. His 66 World Cup victories in the 2010s are a record for a single decade.

Sven Kramer, Netherlands
Speed Skating
Olympic 5000m champion in 2010, 2014, 2018
Six World Allround titles in the 2010s

You knew Kramer was something special at the start of the decade. At Vancouver 2010, Shani Davis, who preceded the Dutchman as the world’s best skater, called him “the Big Dog” before being paired together in what would be Kramer’s first Olympic gold-medal race. In addition to Olympic titles, he went undefeated at the historic world allround championships from 2007-17 and unbeaten at 5000m on the top international level for nearly six years from 2012-18.

Mikaela Shiffrin, United States
Alpine Skiing
Seven combined individual Olympic or world titles in the 2010s
Four straight World Cup overall titles

In slalom alone, Shiffrin won about 60 percent of her World Cup starts this decade. She became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist in Sochi (18 years old), then began branching out. By the end of last season, Shiffrin also earned Olympic or world titles in giant slalom and super-G, World Cup wins in every discipline and a single-season record 17 World Cup victories.

Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir, Canada
Figure Skating
2010, 2018 Olympic ice dance champions
Five Olympic medals a record for figure skaters

The only figure skaters to earn medals at every Olympics this decade. Virtue and Moir delivered under home-ice pressure at Vancouver 2010. They were defeated by training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2014, then returned from a two-year break to shatter scoring records and earn two more gold medals in PyeongChang (dance and team). They finished first or second in all of their ice dance competitions in the decade.

Lindsey Vonn, United States
Alpine Skiing
2010 Olympic downhill champion
Overcame major crashes, surgeries to break female World Cup wins record

Beyond the medals and victories, Vonn was a symbol of determination in the 2010s. From the very start. She competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a severely bruised shin that caused “excruciating” pain. Over the decade, she would amass so many injuries that an annually updated OlympicTalk post labeled a “brief synopsis” of them totaled more than 800 words. Vonn missed the Sochi Olympics after blowing out her right knee in a February 2013 World Championships crash, and re-injuring the knee that November and December in a rushed comeback. She returned from a broken ankle, fractured left knee, broken right arm and twisted back to reach the PyeongChang Olympics, where she earned a hard-fought downhill bronze. She retired last season, four wins shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s World Cup record, after another crash and knee injury.

Shaun White, United States
Snowboarding
2010, 2018 Olympic halfpipe champion
Four X Games halfpipe titles in the 2010s

White was the sport’s dominant figure at the start of the decade. He then rallied from a mid-2010s drop-off (fourth at the Sochi Olympics) to return to the top of the podium in PyeongChang. He defeated riders nearly a decade younger while attempting (and landing) back-to-back double cork 1440s at a contest for the first time. White is now the youngest and oldest male Olympic halfpipe champion, doing so in his teens, 20s and 30s.

Ireen Wuest, Netherlands
Speed Skating
Individual Olympic titles in 2010, 2014 and 2018
Five-time World allround champion

Wuest earned Olympic titles in three different events this decade, and medals in five of the six Olympic speed skating disciplines. She also finished in the top three at every world allround championships from 2010-18. Wuest, already with 11 medals, has an outside chance of reaching Bjørgen’s career Winter Olympic medals record (15) at Beijing 2022.

Honorable Mention: Dario Cologna (Switzerland, Cross-Country Skiing), Kaillie Humphries (Canada, Bobsled), Martin Fourcade (France, Biathlon) and Mikaël Kingsbury (Canada, Freestyle Skiing).

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral

Shoma Uno tops Grand Prix Final short program; Ilia Malinin 5th

Shoma Uno
Getty
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World champion Shoma Uno of Japan leads after the short program at the Grand Prix Final, the biggest figure skating competition of the fall. Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old American, is fifth out of six skaters after struggling on jumps on Thursday.

Uno, bidding for his first Final title after two silvers and two bronzes, landed a quadruple flip and quad toe loop-double toe combination en route to 99.99 points at the Palavela, the 2006 Olympic venue in Turin, Italy.

He takes a 5.13-point lead over countryman Sota Yamamoto going into Saturday’s free skate.

Malinin is fifth, 19.89 points behind, after stepping out of the landing on the back end of a quad toe-triple toe combination and spinning out of a triple Axel landing, putting a hand on the ice.

“It was a performance that I wasn’t really expecting,” said Malinin, who did not mention a left foot injury that affected him at his last competition (a win) two weeks ago. “We put a lot of effort trying to perfect all these movements in the program with all these jumps. The jumps didn’t go so well, but I think that my performance and my spins definitely have improved. … I just have to stay confident and look forward to the free skate.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Malinin rallied from smaller short program deficits to win his first three competitions in his first full senior season, becoming the first skater to land a quad Axel in September and repeating it in October and November.

Uno, the world’s top returning skater after Yuzuru Hanyu retired and Nathan Chen went back to Yale, didn’t compete against Malinin at those earlier events.

“It wasn’t up to the levels of my best performance,” Uno said of Thursday’s short program, according to a translation. “But I think I was able to show what I’ve done this season up until this competition. I’m genuinely happy.”

The quad Axel is not a point-scoring element in short programs, but it is in free skates.

Malinin, the son of Olympic skaters from Uzbekistan, was second at last January’s U.S. Championships but left off the three-man Olympic team due to his relative inexperience. He went to senior worlds in March and finished ninth, then won the world junior title in April.

The Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series, is the most exclusive figure skating competition. It was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara topped the pairs’ short program with 78.08 points, edging world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier by 43 hundredths of a point.

Miura and Kihara, ranked No. 1 in the world this season, are bidding to win the biggest title ever for a Japanese pair.

Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, recorded a personal best score with their first clean program since those worlds. Frazier put his hand on the ice on their side-by-side triple toe landings, but judges still barely graded it positively.

“We’ve made a big improvement from our [fall] Grand Prix [starts],” Knierim said. “I am elated with the outcome.”

Pairs experienced the biggest change of the four figure skating disciplines since the Olympics with none of the top five teams from the Winter Games competing internationally this fall. Russian pairs, traditionally the best in the world as a group, are ineligible due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including gold medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t skate in the Grand Prix Series.

The Grand Prix Final continues Friday with the pairs’ free skate, rhythm dance and women’s short program, all live on Peacock.

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Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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