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.

NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

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.

Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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