Madison Chock, Evan Bates snake to first U.S. ice dance title in 5 years

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Madison Chock and Evan Bates pulled off a rare feat in top-level ice dancing — reclaiming a national title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Chock and Bates, two-time Olympic partners, became the first U.S. skater, couple or pair to go five years between national titles in many decades. They clinched it in Saturday’s free dance with an Egyptian snake performance to distance two-time defending champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said.

The margin of victory: 4.67 points, the largest in U.S. ice dance since Meryl Davis and Charlie White completed their dominant run in 2014. Chock and Bates led by 1.32 after Friday’s rhythm dance.

They returned atop the podium after finishing second or third at the last four nationals. A second act like this can be hard to come by in ice dance, where the longstanding politics of judging most come into play. Once couples fall out of favor, they usually stay there.

The U.S. Championships conclude Sunday with the men’s free skate in Greensboro, N.C., live on NBC Sports.

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Chock and Bates came out of the Sochi Olympics as the top U.S. couple, succeeding Davis and White. But they dropped behind both Hubbell and Donohue and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani going into the PyeongChang Olympics (where they placed ninth).

After that, Chock underwent ankle surgery. The couple moved from Michigan to Montreal. They now train with Hubbell and Donohue, U.S. bronze medalists Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

“The trajectory for our skating right now is great,” Bates said. “Our mindset is right. Our coaching team is right. Our connection is as strong as ever, and we’re going to keep riding it.”

Hubbell said she and Donohue came out of their first free dance element, a spin, in the wrong direction. That caused them to continue facing the wrong way for their next four elements.

“The rotational lift, there’s a large leg flair that looks very cool going the opposite direction,” Hubbell said. “Today, I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

Internationally, Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue rank fourth and fifth in the world by best scores this season. A U.S. couple earned a medal at 10 of the last 11 world championships, but no gold since 2013.

Make it two potentially landscape-altering ice dance results on Saturday. Papadakis and Cizeron were beaten at the European Championships, their first loss to a couple other than retired Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir since December 2014.

“I’m hoping that it has a surge of fans,” Hubbell said of that result, “because there’s nothing more boring than knowing the outcome before it happens.”

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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.

Finn Christian Jagge, 1992 Olympic slalom champion, dies at 54

Finn Christian Jagge
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Finn Christian Jagge, the surprise 1992 Olympic slalom champion, has died at age 54, according to Norway’s Olympic Committee.

Jagge’s wife, Trine-Lise Jagge, posted on Facebook that he died of an acute illness.

Jagge, then 25, won the slalom at the Albertville Games in Savoie, France, stunning defending champion Alberto Tomba of Italy. Jagge had the fastest first run by 1.07 seconds and relegated Tomba to silver by .28 of a second after the second run. Tomba was going for his fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

Jagge’s father won a Norwegian record 42 national tennis championships. His mother competed in Alpine skiing at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, according to Olympedia.org.

Jagge won his first Norwegian national title at age 18. After knee and back injuries, he won seven World Cup slaloms in the 1990s, retiring in 2000.

Vår største kjærlighet, vår største helt og klippe. Verdens beste Pappa og verdens beste MesterHubby, døde i dag, etter akutt sykdom❤️Det er ubeskrivelig vondt og vi er helt knust.

Posted by Trine-Lise Jagge on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin, Olympian, world champion snowboarder, drowns in spearfishing accident

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Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, an Olympian and world champion snowboarder, drowned while spearfishing on Australia’s Gold Coast on Wednesday.

A police spokesperson said a 32-year-old man, later identified as Pullin, was unresponsive when taken from the water and died despite receiving CPR from lifeguards and emergency treatment from paramedics.

The accident happened at Palm Beach around 10:40 a.m. local time. Pullin had been diving on an artificial reef when he was found by a snorkeler.

“Another diver was out there and located him on the sea floor and raised the attention of nearby surfers who sought lifeguards to bring him in,” police said. “He didn’t have an oxygen mask. We understand he was free diving and spearfishing out on the reef.”

Pullin competed in Olympic snowboard cross in 2010, 2014 and 2018 with a best finish of sixth. He won back-to-back world titles in 2011 and 2013. He carried Australia’s flag at the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2014.

“We are all in shock today as one of the most beloved members of our close snow sport community, Chumpy, has sadly lost his life in what appears to be a tragic accident,” Snow Australia CEO Michael Kennedy said in a statement. “He was a mentor to so many of our younger snowboarders, giving up his time to coach and provide advice to our future Olympians. His loss will be felt right across our community.

“We know it won’t just be here in Australia that Chumpy’s legacy will be remembered, but throughout the international snowboarding community. It wasn’t just his ability to deliver results that will be missed, but his leadership and the path that he laid for so many.”

His parents owned a ski and snowboard shop in the Australian Alps, where Pullin began riding at age 8. Older friends gave him the nickname “Chumpy,” and it stuck.

Pullin, who spent time as a frontman for the surf-reggae band love Charli, often brought a guitar with him while traveling for competitions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.