Top gymnasts gather for ‘Friendship and Solidarity’ meet on Olympic Channel

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Olympic all-around gold medalist Kohei Uchimura and 2017 U.S. champion Yul Moldauer headline the deepest field for an international gymnastics meet in seven months, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on Saturday night.

The Friendship and Solidarity Competition in Tokyo, nine months before the Japanese capital hosts the Olympics, blends elites from the world’s dominant gymnastics nations — the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

The mixed-gender team event is Saturday at 11 p.m. ET. TV coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for Olympic Channel subscribers.

Up to 2,000 spectators will be allowed inside the arena, according to Kyodo News.

Uchimura is one of 15 gymnasts on Team Solidarity, which also includes 2019 World all-around champion Nikita Nagornyy of Russia and American women Shilese Jones and eMjae Frazier.

Team Friendship includes two members of the U.S.’ 2019 World Championships team — Moldauer and Shane Wiskus — as well as 2018 World all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan of Russia. Plus, 2019 World women’s all-around bronze medalist Angelina Melnikova of Russia and Asuka Teramoto, Japan’s top female all-arounder at 2019 Worlds (13th place).

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) organized the event as a showcase of international camaraderie “at a time when unity has never seemed more important.” The top three scores per apparatus per team will count to a final team score. There is no individual competition.

“One goal is to prove that staging a high-profile event in Tokyo is possible in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the FIG.

Uchimura, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic all-around champion for Japan, tested positive for the coronavirus last Wednesday. But three subsequent tests came back negative, and last week’s result has since been deemed a false positive, according to the FIG. Uchimura was cleared to compete.

Top gymnasts not entered in Saturday’s meet, including Simone Biles, are expected to return to competition in 2021.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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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.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona men’s pro race, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Both entered Kailua-Kona, where the races were now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men. Chelsea Sodaro won the women’s race, ending a 20-year American victory drought.

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.

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.

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