Russia still dominant at World Team Trophy; Nathan Chen ends season with personal victory

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With both its reigning world champion pairs’ team and ice dance team displaying winning programs on Friday, Russia continues to lead the standings at the ISU World Team Trophy in Osaka, Japan.

The dominant nation has a 91-point total and eight-point margin over second-place United States that will be nearly impossible to catch up to with only the pairs’ and women’s free skates remaining on Saturday. The U.S. and Japan (78 – five points back from Team USA and more than 20 ahead of the rest of the field) are all but guaranteed to continue their streak of finishing on the podium at every World Team Trophy dating back to its start in 2009.

France (56), Italy (53) and Canada (42), without its top athletes, round out the six-country field at the biennial event.

Pairs entered the competition to kick off the day, with Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov winning the short with 73.77 points to add the maximum 12 points for Russia. Just 0.41 points separated the next three teams, with Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier coming out on the tail end of that mix. In their first season together and at Frazier’s World Team Trophy debut, their 65.68 points came in fourth (adding 9 points to the team total) after Knierim fell on her throw triple loop landing.

“It was uncharacteristic because that was the only [throw] so far this week that we missed, so it’s always unfortunate when it’s the one in the [competition] program, but I think it just helps us get more experience,” Knierim said. “We haven’t fallen in a short in a competition, so how do we rally after? … The program was well skated and it didn’t change once the fall happened.”

Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (66.09) and Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (65.82) were second and third.

The free dance results mirrored Thursday’s rhythm dance placements with Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov taking the win (130.15), followed by Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (124.75) and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (110.16; 10 points for the team).

Three-time reigning world champ Nathan Chen won the men’s free skate (203.24) over Japan’s two-time reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu (193.76), just as he had at world championships three weeks prior. Chen had four quadruple jumps in his program, while Hanyu had three (and singled a planned quad salchow).

“After worlds were cancelled last year, to be able to have a competition truly means a lot as an athlete; to be able to perform, to be able to compete in front of people,” Chen said. “I’m truly grateful.”

After placing fifth in the short, Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada was third (180.72), earning 10 valuable points for his country’s total. Jason Brown was third in the short program but placed eighth in the free (160.33; 5 team points) after errors that included falling on his triple lutz, popping a triple axel and under-rotating his opening quad salchow.

“I’m very proud of my team’s fight today,” Brown said as U.S. team captain. “You know, we really fought out there… I cannot wait for tomorrow, I’ll get to be there the whole day with my teammates, so we’re going to go crazy in in the kiss and cry and cheer on our teammates. It’s going to be an awesome day.”

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NFL star Jared Allen’s team beats Olympic champions at curling nationals

Jared Allen
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Retired NFL star Jared Allen was part of a curling team that beat 2018 Olympic champion John Shuster to open the U.S. Championships in Denver on Sunday night.

Allen, who retired from the NFL in 2016 and picked up curling in 2018, is on 2010 Olympian Jason Smith‘s team, which beat Shuster’s team 10-6 in the first game of round-robin play.

After all eight teams play each other, the top four advance to Friday’s playoffs. The winner of Saturday’s final is national champion and is expected to be the U.S. team for the world championship in Ottawa in April.

Allen, 40, said before nationals that he is eyeing the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” Allen, who was on a different team at the last nationals in 2021 that went 0-9, told the newspaper. “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through. Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”

How big of an upset was Sunday’s result? Ken Pomeroy rated Smith’s team fifth in the eight-team field before the tournament, while he had Shuster’s team second behind Korey Dropkin.

Shuster’s team won the last three nationals that they entered, plus the last two Olympic Trials since the bulk of the team formed for the 2015 season. Shuster went 11-0 at his last nationals in 2020, then 11-2 at the 2022 Olympic Trials, where the younger Dropkin beat him twice but ultimately lost in the finals series.

Allen was first linked to serious curling in February 2018 via U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne on a Minnesota ESPN radio show. Nanne said Allen told him at a dinner.

“[Allen] says, ‘I’m giving myself four years to make the Olympic curling team,’” said Nanne, a 1968 U.S. Olympian.

Allen, along with retired quarterback Marc Bulger, first played on a team with 2010 Olympian John Benton and fellow veteran curler Hunter Clawson.

Allen’s new team includes Smith, who played on the 2010 Olympic team skipped by Shuster, Clawson and Dominik Maerki.

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U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit