At U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, generations and medalists clash for Tokyo spots

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USA Diving had quite the unpredictable cycle since the last Olympics in 2016.

David Boudia, the best American diver over the last decade, took a year off, sold houses, came back, suffered a concussion and switched from the platform to the springboard.

Laura Wilkinson, the last American woman to win Olympic gold in 2000, came out of a six-year retirement, aiming to compete internationally for the first time since 2008.

Delaney Schnell and Sarah Bacon became the first U.S. women to earn individual world championships medals since Wilkinson in 2005.

They’re the headliners at the Olympic Trials, which start Sunday in Indianapolis. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

The top two divers per individual event and the top synchronized team in three events (the U.S. failed to qualify an Olympic spot in men’s synchro platform) make the team for Tokyo.

With help from NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter, a look at the competition:

Men’s Springboard
Boudia, the Olympic champion in 2012 and bronze medalist in 2016 in platform, won the U.S. title and finished fifth at worlds in 2019 in his first full year after switching to the springboard. Other prominent platform divers shifted to the springboard late in their careers as it’s easier on the body. The last American to compete in the Olympics in both platform and springboard over his or her career was Mark Ruiz, who did both in Sydney in 2000.

“If David dives reasonably, he has an edge,” at Trials, Potter said. “He has such an incredible brain for competition. … His timing and his rhythm and his balance, I don’t think they have to be at their best, but I think he’s got to be pretty good at the Trials.”

The rest of the field includes a pair of Rio Olympians led by Michael Hixon, the most experienced U.S. springboard diver on the top level. He placed 10th at the Rio Olympics and made the last three world championships teams. Steele Johnson, who earned synchro platform silver with Boudia in Rio, also switched to the springboard but did not compete on it in individually at 2019 Nationals while coming back from injuries.

Andrew Capobianco and Jordan Windle are also contenders, each looking to make his first team for a global championship in individual springboard.

Synchro figures to be a two-team battle between Boudia and Johnson and Hixon and Capobianco.

Women’s Springboard
Bacon, a 24-year-old Indy native, may be the best U.S. diver right now. In 2019, she earned world championships silver on the 1m springboard (not an Olympic event). She followed that with another silver on the 3m Olympic height at the FINA World Cup in Tokyo last month, finishing between the same two Chinese divers as at worlds.

“She was pretty much unflappable,” at the World Cup, Potter said of a diver who overcame two shoulder surgeries, a concussion, stress fractures in her back and mental struggles. “I don’t see anybody else in her category on springboard [at Trials].”

A healthy Kassidy Cook, a Rio Olympian, would be favored for an Olympic spot, too. But she withdrew from the individual event at the World Cup with a shoulder injury (though still competed in synchro with Bacon). She is still on the entry list for both events at Trials.

That opens things up for Brooke Schultz, who made the last two world championships teams and was third at 2019 Winter Nationals. And Krysta Palmer, who has four tenths more difficulty on her dive list than anybody else.

Bacon and Cook are favored to grab the synchro spot.

Men’s Platform
The lone event without a returning Olympian competing at Trials. David Dinsmore, third behind Boudia and Johnson at 2016 Trials, has four wins and a runner-up in national-level meets in this Olympic cycle. His sixth-place finish at the 2017 Worlds was the best individual result for a U.S. man at the meet. Injuries curtailed his training in the past, but the lack of accomplished depth in the event puts him in a good spot to finish in the top two.

“Dinsmore has a really good international reputation,” Potter said. “The judges like it, and so do I.”

Brandon Loschiavo was the only man to beat Dinsmore at a national-level meet in this Olympic cycle. He did that in 2019, then placed higher than Dinsmore at that summer’s worlds (eighth to 12th).

Windle, adopted from a Cambodian orphanage after his birth parents died when he was a baby, could make a bigger splash in the platform than the springboard. He owns college titles on both, though he performed better on the springboard at this season’s NCAAs for the University of Texas.

Women’s Platform
Schnell was the surprise 2019 World bronze medalist after placing 27th at worlds in 2017 and fifth at the Pac-12 Championships in February 2019 for Arizona. But her Olympic spot is not assured as women’s platform, a weak event for the U.S. at recent Olympics, may be its deepest at Trials.

All three Rio Olympians are entered — Amy Cozad MagañaJessica Parratto and Katrina Young. So is another Olympian: Wilkinson, the gold medalist in 2000 who last competed internationally in 2008. Wilkinson, now 43, announced her comeback in 2017 but was set back by injuries. Trials will be her first meet against the nation’s best. She has the same dive list as Schnell, Parratto and Young (albeit different orders).

“You just can’t leave out the name Laura Wilkinson,” said Potter, who expects Wilkinson to make the 12-diver final, and see what happens from there in cumulative scoring. “I haven’t watched her compete, but I know her competitive brain somewhat.”

In synchro, Schnell and Parratto and Young and Murphy Bromberg are the top teams. Bromberg is also a factor individually after missing the most recent Olympic and world teams by one spot.

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Swiss extend best streak in curling history; Norway continues epic winter sports season

Switzerland Women Curling

Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni extended the most dominant run in world curling championships history, skipping a women’s team to a fourth consecutive title and pushing an unbeaten streak to 36 consecutive games.

Tirinzoni, along with Alina Pätz (who throws the last stones), Carole Howald and Briar Schwaller-Hürlimann, beat Norway 6-3 in Sunday’s final in Sandviken, Sweden.

They went 14-0 for the tournament after a Swiss team also skipped by Tirinzoni also went 14-0 to win the 2022 World title. Tirinzoni’s last defeat in world championship play came during round-robin in 2021 at the hands of Swede Anna Hasselborg, the 2018 Olympic champion.

In all, Tirinzoni’s Swiss are 42-1 over the last three world championships and 45-1 in world championship play dating to the start of the 2019 playoffs. Tirinzoni also skipped the Swiss at the last two Olympics, finishing seventh and then fourth.

Tirinzoni, a 43-year-old who has worked as a project management officer for Migros Bank, is the lone female skip to win three or more consecutive world titles.

The lone man to do it is reigning Olympic champion Niklas Edin of Sweden, who goes for a fifth in a row next week in Ottawa. Edin’s teams lost at least once in round-robin play in each of their four title runs.

Norway extended its incredible winter sports season by earning its first world medal in women’s curling since 2005.

Norway has 53 medals, including 18 golds, in world championships in Winter Olympic program events this season, surpassing its records for medals and gold medals at a single edition of a Winter Olympics (39 and 16).

A Canadian team skipped by Kerri Einarson took bronze. Canada has gone four consecutive women’s worlds without making the final, a record drought for its men’s or women’s teams.

A U.S. team skipped by Olympian Tabitha Peterson finished seventh in round-robin, missing the playoffs by one spot.

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Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

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As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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