Nathan Chen rebounds from Vegas mishaps to lead after Skate Canada short program

0 Comments

Twenty-eight seconds into his short program at Skate America in Las Vegas a week ago, Nathan Chen found himself with his rear end on the ice.

It wasn’t the first time Chen had fallen in a competition, of course. It actually had happened in his previous individual competition, the 2021 World Championships. And it was on the same opening short program jump, a quadruple lutz, putting him third going into a free skate he easily won to take a third straight world title.

Yet the fall at Skate America last week clearly affected him more. Chen botched his third jumping pass and wound up with his worst short program score since the 2018 Olympics. The desultory free skate (four clean quads notwithstanding) that followed left him third overall, with his lowest total score in 22 international events dating to autumn 2016 and also his first loss since those 2018 Olympics.

That is why Chen chose to go right back to the quad lutz rather than pick an easier jump to open Friday’s short program at Skate Canada in Vancouver.

“I definitely needed to get over that hurdle of the lutz,” Chen said.

It may not have been his best quad lutz ever, but it was clean and solid, and it released Chen to flow rather than struggle through the rest of the 2-minute, 50-second program, as had happened at Skate America. He followed Friday’s lutz with a strong triple axel and a quad toe-triple toe combination that earned his fourth highest score ever for that element.

With the jumps out of the way and the music switching to the pulsating “Nemesis,” Chen infused the final part of his program with the energy that had poured out of him when he skated to a longer version of that song in the last Olympic season.

He won the short program with 106.72 points, easily outdistancing a field in which Chen’s compatriot, Jason Brown, took second (94.0) with a scintillating performance to Nina Simone’s powerful “Sinnerman.” Without a quad, Brown finished almost 13 points behind Chen (two quads) in technical scores, a difference he could trim only slightly on components.

“There were points left on the table I am determined to grab as the season goes on,” Brown said. “So I’m pleased but hungry for more.”

Keegan Messing of Canada was third (93.28), and Makar Ignatov put up a personal best of 89.79 for fourth, piling up points with his strong quads but losing others with lackluster spins.

After his free skate at Skate America, Chen said he needed more time to reflect on what had gone wrong.

“At this point, all I can really try to do is keep moving forward, try to learn from this competition and go from there,” he said.

He didn’t have much time. And that turned out to be a good thing.

“I’m happy to have had an opportunity right off the bat to give myself another shot,” Chen said.

“From past experience, the first couple competitions I have had (every season) have never been perfect. That’s not to say I should not be. That’s on me. Every time I skate, I’m supposed to be skating well.”

In fact, even during the first two seasons of his unbeaten streak, Chen had made significant mistakes, large and small, in both his scheduled Grand Prix events. The difference at 2021 Skate America was for the first time in an individual event since the 2017 worlds, he had won neither the short program nor the free skate.

“I’m not really in a place where I’m like, ‘Things are definitely going to go downhill from here,’” Chen said of needing to rebuild confidence. “It’s a constant progression. There are going to be good days, there are going to be bad days.

“If I start thinking too far ahead or start worrying too much about what’s to come, I’m going to lose sight of what I currently have to do.”

The next thing is Saturday’s free skate. A strong performance would, for better or worse, put Chen right back in the position he held when the season began: solid favorite for the Olympic gold medal next February in Beijing.

That doesn’t mean Chen will let what happened in Vegas stay in Vegas.

“I still have to figure out what it is logistically that went wrong,” he said.

It may have been nothing that a good quadruple lutz couldn’t fix.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball
Getty
0 Comments

SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
Getty
0 Comments

The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game