Nathan Chen wins Skate America, ties U.S. figure skating legends

Nathan Chen
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Nathan Chen, flawed by his sky-high standards, won a fourth straight Skate America title, tying a record shared by U.S. figure skating legends and extending an undefeated Olympic cycle.

Chen prevailed by what has become a customary whopping margin — 24.05 points — after landing five quadruple jumps between two programs in his first top-level competition in nine months.

Chen hit fewer quads than usual in Saturday’s free skate, which included two significant jumping errors (doubling a planned quad Salchow and popping a triple Axel). There was still no doubt about the win.

“I made quite a few big mistakes in that program, things that I shouldn’t have made mistakes on,” Chen said on NBC. “But it is what it is. I’ll learn from it. Move forward from here.”

Vincent Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist and, if anybody, a domestic rival, placed second, followed by Canadian Keegan Messing.

Earlier Saturday, Mariah Bell, who shares a coach with Chen, notched the biggest win of her career in the women’s competition. More on that here.

Later, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won a third straight Skate America ice dance title.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Brandon Frazier won their top-level pairs’ competition debut together over a field that included two past U.S. champion teams. Scimeca Knierim, a 2018 Olympian, and Frazier previously won national titles with past partners.

Skate America usually includes some of the world’s top skaters, but due to coronavirus pandemic related travel concerns was limited to American skaters and a few international athletes who train in the U.S. There were no ticketed spectators at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | Grand Prix Fields

Chen, a 21-year-old on leave from Yale through the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, tied the record for consecutive Skate America titles shared by Michelle KwanTodd Eldredge and ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

He is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, a run that includes victories over two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who is sitting out the abbreviated fall Grand Prix season.

Chen and Hanyu were expected to go head-to-head at December’s Grand Prix Final in Beijing, but that is one of several major skating events impacted by the pandemic. It has been postponed indefinitely.

“We were planning on sort of getting myself to that really competitive shape by the Final,” Chen said before Skate America.

Next up for Chen in January: He tries to become the first man to win five straight national titles since Dick Button‘s seven in a row from 1946-52.

Next up on the skating calendar: Cup of China, the second of four Grand Prix events this season, in two weeks. A full season broadcast schedule is here.

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

Asher Hong

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

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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