Brody Malone leads at Olympic gymnastics trials; Shane Wiskus makes major comeback

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Brody Malone proved his surprising U.S. Gymnastics Championships victory earlier this month — at the first senior nationals of his career — was far from a fluke, once again leading the rest of the domestic competition halfway through the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials.

With six more clean routines on Saturday, the 21-year-old would have a guaranteed spot on the Olympic team, almost a full point ahead as day one concluded on Thursday night. The cumulative winner when the men’s event ends will lock in a spot on the Olympic team, and so will the runner-up, provided that person finishes top three in at least three events in St. Louis, Missouri.

Malone has an all-around score of 85.25 points.

A 2019 and 2021 NCAA all-around champion for Stanford, he is setting himself up to contribute to the U.S. team final on the most events, having notched the top score on high bar (14.45), tied for first on floor exercise (14.6), and in second on still rings (14.2) and third on parallel bar (14.1).

Just behind Malone, and perhaps the bigger story of the night, was Shane Wiskus with 84.3 points.

Wiskus had the most devastating finish to the 2021 U.S. Championships, and 18 days later he returned to the competition floor for the most redemptive start to the Olympic Trials.

In second place after 11 of 12 events in Fort Worth, Texas, Wiskus ended the event with a shocking high bar routine that included three falls. He dropped to ninth in the all-around.

This time, Wiskus was clean across the board – including the third-highest-scoring high bar routine (13.8) – and had the best night of his career when it mattered most, scoring 84.3 points.

GYMNASTICS TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview

The recent University of Minnesota grad has never finished higher than fourth in the all-around at U.S. Championships.

“He’s got something going for him,” 1984 Olympic team champion Tim Daggett said of Wiskus on the NBCSN broadcast. “He does not lack confidence, he never has. He shouldn’t because he’s got tremendous ability.”

If all athletes were to repeat their performances on day two, Wiskus would ensure his spot on the four-man Olympic team; he had the highest score on parallel bars (14.5), was third on both vault (14.6) and high bar (13.8).

Yul Moldauer, the 2017 U.S. all-around and two-time U.S. silver medalist, sits third with 83.65 points. He was second on both parallel bars (14.4) and pommel horse (14.1).

Contending for his third Olympic team, Sam Mikulak is fourth with 83.2 points. The six-time national champion tied Malone for the high score on floor and was second-best on high bar (13.85).

Brandon Briones, a rising junior at Stanford and teammate of Malone’s, rounds out the top five with 82.7 points. He was fourth at his first senior nationals in Fort Worth.

The other all-arounders who have been in the Olympic team mix have an uphill climb to remain as such: 2016 Olympic alternate Akash Modi is in sixth (82.55) and no better than tied for fourth on any particular event and three-time World team alternate Allan Bower is right behind him (82.5) but third on pommel horse (14.05)

Colin Van Wicklen, who competed on three events in the 2018 Worlds team final and won four U.S. event medals between the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Championships, was injured during warmups and withdrew before the start of competition.

In addition to the four-person Olympic team, the U.S. men also qualified one individual spot for Tokyo. That spot will likely be filled by an event specialist, and several remain in the running.

After missing the U.S. Championships while he was in Rio — being an alternate for the team at Pan American Championships — 2016 Olympic alternate Donnell Whittenburg added his name to the conversation, landing the highest score on vault (15.05) by 0.35 points. He hasn’t had this strong of a showing since winning vault and placing third in the all-around at the 2017 U.S. Championships; Whittenburg earned the bronze medal on vault at the 2015 World Championships. Fourteenth in the all-around, Whittenburg also had the third-highest score on rings (14.1).

Pommel horse has long been the U.S. men’s weakest event, but two powerhouses have emerged in the last couple years as favorites to go to Tokyo: Stephen Nedoroscik and Alec Yoder.

Nedoroscik won the U.S. title on the event in Fort Worth — outscoring Yoder both days — but came off the horse at Trials for a one-point deduction. His 13.65 points (fifth best) may have made things clearer for the selection committee.

“I tried my hardest,” Nedoroscik said to the camera. “I got lost in the moment, type of thing… I have to be happy with what I did and I’m happy to be here. … There’s always Saturday, so stay tuned.”

Yoder lived up to the pressure a few rotations later, scoring 15.05 points — higher than either of his scores from nationals — and was nearly a full point ahead of Moldauer, who was second.

“It didn’t impact me,” Yoder told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce of Nedoroscik’s fall. “In gymnastics, you never want that to happen for anybody.”

“All the hard work is paying off,” he continued about his own performance, “so such a great feeling. … I just have to keep swinging. I know what I can do on this event and I want to prove it.”

Yoder also competes on parallel bars and was tied for eighth there with a score of 13.9.

Alex Diab and Gage Dyer are the remaining specialists in contention. Diab had the highest rings score (14.5), which was just 0.3 points ahead of second-place Malone, and Dyer, who was second on floor and third on vault at nationals, tied for fifth on both of his events this time.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win U.S. figure skating pairs’ title in possible final nationals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier haven’t decided if they’ll compete beyond this season, so Saturday may have been their farewell to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

If so, they went out as dominant winners, the first pair in their 30s to win nationals in more than 50 years.

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, took their second U.S. title together, totaling 227.97 points to prevail by 31.11 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. They led by a gaping 15.1 points after Thursday’s short.

Knierim and Frazier were solid after errors on their opening jumping combination in Saturday’s free skate. They broke their own pairs’ margin of victory record from the 2021 U.S. Championships under a scoring system implemented in 2006. Knierim appeared to wipe away tears backstage.

“As I get older, the longer I’m in this sport, the more gratitude I have for it,” Knierim, the oldest woman to win a U.S. figure skating title since 1995 (Renée Roca), said on USA Network. “After that music ended, I’m just thankful that Brandon’s by my side and I’m able to do what I love.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea bagged bronze to likely round out the three-pair team for March’s world championships.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Knierim and Frazier considered retiring after last season, after they missed nationals due to Frazier’s COVID-19, petitioned onto the Olympic team and posted the best Olympic finish for a U.S. pair (sixth) in 20 years.

They then became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, beating a field that didn’t include any of the top five from the Olympics.

They returned in part to compete as world champions and rank second in the world this season (during which the top Olympic pairs also haven’t competed). They will likely go into March’s worlds in Japan as underdogs to Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who won their lone head-to-head this past fall at the Grand Prix Final.

Back in October, Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“This U.S. Championships for us was extra special because you’re just reflecting on the journey, and you know that there’s a good chance that this will be your last one,” Frazier said.

Knierim won her fifth U.S. title, tying the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka InaTai BabiloniaRandy GardnerKarol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Silver medalists Chan and Howe continued their recent surge. After placing fourth at last season’s nationals, they rank sixth in the world this season. That’s despite summer injuries that left them unable to practice lifts (his shoulder) and throws (her foot) for a while.

Kam, 18, and O’Shea, 31, made the podium four months after becoming a pair and less than two months after a car Kim was riding in was hit by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The car was totaled, but Kim and O’Shea still competed days later in Croatia.

O’Shea won the 2016 U.S. title with Tarah Kayne, retired after they split in late 2020, then came back in 2021 with Chelsea Liu. They ranked sixth in the U.S. going into 2022 Nationals, but withdrew beforehand due to concussions both suffered in a November competition fall, according to Figure Skaters Online.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men’s Short Program
1. Ilia Malinin — 110.36
2. Jason Brown — 100.25
3. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 85.43
4. Liam Kapeikis — 82.27
5. Andrew Torgashev — 78.78
6. Maxim Naumov — 77.71
7. Jimmy Ma — 73.88
8. Goku Endo — 73.45
9. Samuel Mindra — 71.36
10. Yaroslav Paniot — 70.87
11. Camden Pulkinen — 69.47
12. Matthew Nielsen — 67.98
13. Joonsoo Kim — 67.45
14. Daniel Martynov — 64.04
15. Will Annis — 63.46
16. Dinh Tran — 60.63
17. Mitchell Friess — 59.14
18. Joseph Klein — 58.38

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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