Nathan Chen stumbles to surprising fourth, while Vincent Zhou leads at Skate America

0 Comments

LAS VEGAS — It was an unfamiliar scene during the men’s short program press conference at Skate America on Friday night.

2018 U.S. Olympian Vincent Zhou sat in the middle – in the lead halfway through the event – with Japan’s Shoma Uno to his left and fellow American Jimmy Ma on his right.

Nathan Chen was nowhere to be found.

It was the first time since the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics that Chen was not in the top three following either the short program or free skate at an individual figure skating competition he’s entered.

The three-time reigning world champion is in fourth going into Saturday’s free skate.

His score of 82.89 points is 1.63 out of podium position and a far – but reachable for him – 14.54 from first.

“Of course I’m worried,” Chen said. “I’m human, I feel fear. I get anxious before events, but that’s normal. So far, fortunately, I’ve had enough experience dealing with that. Clearly it didn’t show today, and I think I have a lot to learn from this experience. I really enjoy what I do, so I think that overpowers everything.”

The 22-year-old fell on his opening quadruple lutz and stepped out on a quad flip that was intended to be a quad flip-triple toe loop combination.

The mistakes leave his undefeated streak that dates back to March 2018 – 13 in-person individual competitions – in jeopardy.

“I have a lot of events going forward this season,” Chen said of his short program to Benjamin Clementine‘s “Eternity” and “Nemesis.” “It’s not like this is the one opportunity I have to perform the short program, so I’ll prepare literally as much as I can and go forward.

“I’m human, I make mistakes and unfortunately it happened today. It happens; just learn from it, grow from it.”

Including the 13 aforementioned events, this is just the third time Chen is not leading after the short. He was third at the 2018 France Grand Prix and the 2021 World Championships.

Zhou, meanwhile, is having to get used to the spotlight.

“It’s pretty unexpected that I’m sitting in the middle,” he said to open the press conference. “I’m going to take this into tomorrow and move forward.”

Zhou’s score of 97.43 points included an opening quad lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by a quad salchow in his performance to Josh Groban‘s “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” program, which he held on to from last season.

“I think I did a good job tonight performing the program and showing some of the great things we’ve been doing in training,” he said. “I can skate even better and I’ve been competing pretty consistently this season, so this is just another building block.”

Zhou won his two early season events – the Cranberry Cup International and Nebelhorn Trophy, his first Challenger Series victory, quickly redeeming himself from how he ended last season.

The 2019 world bronze medalist, who will turn 21 on Monday, placed 25th in Stockholm and was one spot out of even qualifying for the free skate.

At Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in early September, Zhou’s win helped ensure the U.S. will send three men to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in February.

Uno, who won the silver medal at the last Olympics, is on track to earn his first Grand Prix medal in three years. He had medaled at all of his Grand Prix assignments for four years in a row – plus the Grand Prix Final each of those seasons – before struggling in 2019 and placing eighth in France and fourth in Russia.

His short, which scored 89.07, started with a double flip instead of a quad.

Aside from Chen, Ma’s performance and score of 84.52 was one of the biggest surprises of the night.

The 26-year-old was at Skate America in both 2018 and 2020, his only two career Grand Prix assignments, and placed 12th and 10th.

“I definitely was not expecting to be up here tonight,” Ma said. “My main goal in this competition was to leave my heart out there. I didn’t want to have any regrets. … It’s great to be up here.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
Getty
0 Comments

Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

0 Comments

Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!