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.

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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