Alysa Liu, Vincent Zhou to compete for U.S.’ maximum Olympic figure skating spots

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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The number of Olympic singles figure skaters the United States sends to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics rests in the hands of Alysa Liu and Vincent Zhou.

U.S. Figure Skating announced Monday that Liu, a two-time national champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, were chosen to compete at Nebelhorn Trophy in mid-September with the responsibility of confirming that the U.S. will send the maximum three men and three women to Beijing in five months.

The U.S. successfully qualified three men and three women for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics – the only nation to do so – after sending just two men to Sochi in 2014 and two women to Vancouver in 2010.

Olympic figure skating quota spots for 2022 are primarily based on each nation’s results at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships. If the results from the top two American finishers in a discipline add up to 13 (i.e. placing eighth and third would equal 11), the U.S. would send three athletes or teams to Beijing in that discipline; if the two top U.S. results in a discipline add up to 14 through 28, the U.S. sends two entries in that event.

Based on performances in Stockholm this past March, the U.S. is guaranteed to send two pairs teams – an improvement on the one in PyeongChang – and three ice dance teams, just as it has the past four Winter Olympics.

There is a caveat to the procedures this time around, though, stating that for a nation to qualify three spots in a discipline, that country must have had three entries in the free skate at Worlds.

Only two U.S. women competed in Stockholm – Karen Chen (fourth) and Bradie Tennell (ninth), and only two U.S. men qualified to the free skate – Nathan Chen (gold) and Jason Brown (seventh).

Enter Nebelhorn Trophy.

The Sept. 22-25 event in Oberstdorf, Germany, will award six men’s and six women’s Olympic spots to countries that have not yet earned any or those like the U.S. that need to confirm their placements earned at Worlds after having a disproportionate number of competitors there. If Liu or Zhou are not among the top six whose country is eligible for Olympic qualification, the U.S. will only send two athletes in their discipline.

Liu and Zhou were selected for the task after having the top scores at the Cranberry Cup International earlier this month, backing up their already impressive lists of accomplishments.

Liu became the youngest U.S. women’s champion in 2019 at age 13, repeated her win the following year then took bronze at the 2020 World Junior Championships. After a growth spurt and injury, she was fourth at the 2021 U.S. Championships. Now 16, the Olympic season marks Liu’s senior international debut.

Zhou, 20, was sixth at his Olympic debut three years ago, then earned bronze at the 2019 World Championships. The three-time U.S. silver medalist had a dismal short program performance at the 2021 Worlds, though, and finished 25th – just missing the cutoff for the free skate.

The athletes who actually compete at the Beijing Games will be announced after the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
U.S. Figure Skating
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

Peter Sagan to retire from road cycling, eyes mountain bike at 2024 Paris Olympics

Peter Sagan
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Peter Sagan said 2023 will be his final year as a professional road cyclist and that he will target the 2024 Olympics in mountain bike.

The Slovakian made the announcement on his 33rd birthday in a social media video. He said he made the decision “quite some time ago.”

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said in a press conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.

“It’s important for me to spend time with my son Marlon and to see life from different angles, and not just as a cyclist. It was never my dream to race or to be a professional rider until 40 or 50. I think it’s time now. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympics Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan is a record seven-time Tour de France green jersey champion as best sprinter. He has 12 individual stage wins (the last in 2019), second-most among active riders behind Mark Cavendish‘s record-tying 34.

At the Olympics, Sagan was 34th in the road race in 2012 and 35th in the mountain bike in 2016. He missed the Tokyo Games after surgery to treat an infection in his right knee stemming from a 2021 Tour de France crash.

Sagan won the world junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before his road racing career, which included three consecutive world road race titles from 2015-17.

Of qualifying for Paris in the mountain bike, he said, “We’ll see whether it is even possible, but I think it can be another nice adventure.”

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