Amber Glenn wants to be the fifth U.S. woman to land a triple Axel. She isn’t alone.


As Amber Glenn entered the cryotank on Sept. 8, she had to be optimistic about the coming figure skating season. Glenn, 20, was landing a triple Axel — performed in competition by only four American women in history — on about four out of every five attempts in practice, she estimated.

From her cryotherapy that day, Glenn remembers the hydrogen smoke getting thick. That’s all she remembers.

“I woke up on the floor not being able to open my right eye,” Glenn said. “My first thought was, I can’t compete tomorrow.

“My second thought was, don’t call an ambulance. That’s too dang expensive. So I kept repeating, ‘Don’t call an ambulance.’ They called an ambulance.”

Glenn learned that she passed out in the cryotank, fell through the door, hit her face on a shoe cubby, broke an orbital bone and sustained a concussion.

Her coaches at the Dallas Figure Skating Club, Darlene and Peter Cain, received a phone call and were told she was at the hospital.

“It was shocking,” Peter Cain said. “The first few hours you don’t know the extent of what happened. As her mom started sending us the pictures, we realized it was really significant.”

Incredibly, given the image of her puffed-shut purple eye that she shared on social media, Glenn skated in a virtual competition less than a month later.

On Thursday, she landed two triple Axels in practice at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas ahead of competing at Skate America on Friday night and Saturday. Her short program and free skate are coincidentally set to the songs “Scars” and “Rain, in Your Black Eyes.”

SKATE AMERICA: TV, Live Stream Schedule | Grand Prix Fields

Glenn said later Thursday, and her coaches confirmed Friday, that she so far does not plan to attempt the triple Axel in competition at Skate America.

“We’re trying to get some mileage on it prior to putting it in,” Peter Cain said. “We were hoping to put it in this week, but I don’t think we’re quite ready yet.”

If and when Glenn does try — and, key, land it clean and fully rotated — she will join an exclusive club: Tonya HardingKimmie MeissnerMirai Nagasu and Alysa Liu.

Glenn would be unique from among that group. Meissner and Liu landed a triple Axel as teenagers. Liu, 15, is the two-time reigning national champion but too young for Skate America. Harding and Nagasu were already established senior champion skaters — Nagasu an Olympian and Harding a Skate America winner.

Glenn won the 2014 U.S. junior title. Since, her best finish at senior nationals was fifth last January (with arguably the event’s highlight short program). In between, she lost her love for the sport, taking several months off between 2015 and 2016 and returning to a new rink with new coaches.

“Beforehand, [skating] was something that dictated my life, and something that, If I wasn’t a good skater, I was nothing,” she said. “And that was such a toxic mindset because I know I’m more than that. It took me a long time to really get that through my head.”

With the Cains, she spent the pandemic working on the triple Axel. She learned all of the other, more common triple jumps by age 11. It’s well known in skating that the older you get, the more difficult it is to learn a new jump, particularly one as difficult as the triple Axel.

“I don’t know how long I’ll have in the sport,” she said. “I want to make the most of it now. So that’s just been a mindset since March.”

Fellow veterans and 2022 U.S. Olympic hopefuls Bradie Tennell (22) and Mariah Bell (24) have also been training the triple Axel. Tennell hopes to debut it in competition later this season, but not at Skate America.

All of the teenage Olympic medal favorites from Russia have either a triple Axel or quadruple jump.

“Without this injury, I was knocking out clean short programs with the Axel pretty much daily,” said Glenn, who also worked on a quad toe loop before the concussion. “Then this happened. I couldn’t do it for three weeks.”

At first, Glenn wasn’t allowed to sneeze because it may disrupt the bone setting. She couldn’t drink from straws or so much as jog the first week after the head injury.

“If I were to damage that in any way, it could affect my eyesight permanently,” she said.

As she eased back onto the ice, she could not do jumps, spins or “anything with centrifugal force.” Eventually, she began rotating. Even trying the triple Axel.

“I’ll do some, and then I’ll get dizzy and have to sit down,” she said. “OK, how’s the concussion doing?”

In her first competition back, a virtual one where her program was filmed at her home rink and submitted to be judged, she singled the Axel. By mid-October, Glenn approximated that she was landing half of her triple Axel attempts in practice.

Her coaches believe she will attempt at least one triple Axel at her next competition, a U.S. Championships Series event later this autumn. Glenn is already qualified for nationals in January, so there is more freedom to risk it there.

“Just because of what’s happening internationally, we would like to have it in the repertoire, obviously,” Peter Cain said. “We would like to have two of them in the program at some point.”

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Kaori Sakamoto leads figure skating worlds; U.S. in medal mix in women’s, pairs’ events

Kaori Sakamoto

Defending champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan topped the women’s short program at the world figure skating championships, while Americans are in the medal mix in the women’s and pairs’ events going into the free skates.

Sakamoto, trying to become the first Japanese skater to win back-to-back world titles, tallied 79.24 points, taking a significant 5.62-point lead over South Korean Lee Hae-In going into Friday’s free skate in Saitama, Japan. It’s the largest lead after a women’s short program at worlds since 2015.

“Usually, when I go into my short program, there’s some uncertainties and anxiety,” Sakamoto, who skated clean with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, said through a translator. “But today I was doing very well in practice, and I wasn’t making any mistakes. So I knew that I could just put everything out there, and that’s exactly what I was able to do.”

U.S. champion Isabeau Levito is in fourth (just 59 hundredths out of second), one year after winning the world junior title. Levito, 16, can become the youngest world medalist since 2014.

“I am really happy with my score,” said Levito, who had a negative grade of execution on her triple Lutz-triple toe combination but still had her best score of the season. “Based on this performance, I’m very excited for the long program.”

Fellow Americans Bradie Tennell and Amber Glenn are eighth and 10th, respectively, about in line with their world rankings. The top two American finishes after the free skate must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example) to avoid dropping down to two spots for next year’s worlds.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs’ short program, distancing defending champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the U.S., who placed second despite Frazier’s fall on their side-by-side triple toe loops.

Miura and Kihara, the world’s top-ranked pair this season, can become the first Japanese pair to win a world title, a year after taking silver behind Knierim and Frazier.

Knierim and Frazier, who will likely retire after this season, are trying to become the first U.S. pair to win multiple world titles. They’re skating without their primary coaches, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, who didn’t travel after Sand had a heart attack three weeks ago.

“Todd’s condition is very serious, so it’s difficult to train when you feel broken inside, when your person is not there,” Knierim said. “However, that person is the one that instilled fight in us, so we’re able to work hard every day to make him proud, and I think we did a good job of that today.”

In fourth place are Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps. Stellato-Dudek, the 2000 World junior silver medalist in singles, came out of a 15-year retirement in 2016 and can become, at 39, the oldest world championships medalist in recent memory.

Worlds continue Wednesday night (U.S. time) with the pairs’ free skate, followed Thursday morning with the men’s short program, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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2023 World Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule


The world figure skating championships from Saitama, Japan, air live on USA Network and Peacock this week.

The U.S. has medal contenders in all four disciplines, one year after winning a medal in all four events for the first time since 1967 (note Russia’s ban, and China sent no skaters).

In the pairs’ event that starts Tuesday night (U.S. time), Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier can become the first U.S. duo to win multiple world titles, one year after becoming the first American pair to take gold since 1979.

They rank second in the world this season behind Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, last year’s silver medalists who look to earn Japan’s first pairs’ world title.

Japan has the world’s top two women’s singles skaters in reigning world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Grand Prix Final winner Mai Mihara.

Isabeau Levito, a 16-year-old American who won last year’s world junior title, ranks fourth in the field by best score this season. She can become the youngest world medalist since 2014.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old American who this season became the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, is seeded second in the men’s field behind Shoma Uno, the reigning world champion from Japan.

In ice dance, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates posted the world’s top score this season at last month’s Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs. After 12 seasons together, their goal is to win their first world title after silver in 2015, bronze in 2016 and bronze in 2022.

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2023 World Figure Skating Championships Broadcast Schedule

Day Competition Time (ET) Network
Tuesday Pairs’ Short 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Wednesday Women’s Short 2:45-8 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Women’s Short 6-8 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Pairs’ Free 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Thursday Men’s Short 2:45-8 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Men’s Short 6-8 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Pairs’ Free 8-10 a.m.* USA | STREAM LINK
Rhythm Dance 10 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM
Friday Women’s Free 4:15-8:30 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Women’s Free 6:30-8:30 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Free Dance 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM
Saturday Men’s Free 4:15-8:30 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM
Men’s Free 6:30-8:30 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Highlights 8-10 p.m.* NBC | STREAM LINK

*Delayed broadcast.