Pairs’ champs Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier out of figure skating nationals due to COVID-19

ISU World Figure Skating Championships - Stockholm: Day Two
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Pairs’ national champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier withdrew from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships due to Frazier testing positive for COVID-19 with severe symptoms, it was announced the night before senior competition begins.

They are still eligible for Olympic team selection through a petition process.

“Although my symptoms are pretty bad, nothing sucks more than not being able to compete,” Frazier said in an Instagram video posted Wednesday night.

Frazier tested negative before arriving in Nashville on Monday for the competition, then started developing severe symptoms late Tuesday evening and got a test as a precaution. He was not required by event rules to be tested again until four days after his arrival.

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Frazier is vaccinated and boosted against the virus, Knierim said on social media.

“We have taken all the necessary precautions leading up to these Championships, including but not limited to social distancing, the use of KN95 masks and canceling all holiday gatherings as well as private lessons at the rink, so it has been shocking and devastating for us to process what has happened,” she wrote.

Knierim said Wednesday night that they will petition to a selection committee for one of two pairs’ spots on the Olympic team, which will be decided after Saturday’s free skate and announced Sunday morning. Skater(s) who successfully petition must be able to prove the ability to perform full competition programs by a specified date and be medically approved to compete at the Olympics.

“Brandon and I have accumulated an extremely strong body of work that positions us at the top of the field nationally and we are not letting go of our Olympic dream,” Knierim said. “That said, we have the utmost respect for the selection committee and believe that they will make decisions based on the best interest of our team and our country.”

Knierim and Frazier, the highest-ranking U.S. pair this season, did not take part in official pairs’ practice on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville after doing so on Tuesday, figure skating reporter Jackie Wong said.

Olympic figure skating competition starts Feb. 3 with the team event.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships are not an Olympic Trials. The Olympic figure skating roster is determined by a selection committee taking into account results from last January’s nationals through this week’s nationals.

Knierim and Frazier, in addition to winning last season’s nationals, were the better of two U.S. pairs at March’s world championships (seventh place) and had the highest score for a U.S. pair in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Knierim and Frazier were expected to battle with three other top pairs for the two Olympic spots — Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDucJessica Calalang and Brian Johnson and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov.

Knierim, who finished 15th at the 2018 Olympics with since-retired husband Chris, and Frazier partnered last year and quickly ascended to the top of U.S. pairs.

Knierim and Frazier’s spot at the top was under pressure this season: Cain-Gribble and LeDuc put up a score at their last Grand Prix event in November that’s .18 shy of Knierim and Frazier’s best this fall.

Then, in their last competition before nationals, Knierim and Frazier struggled in their free skate and were outscored by another U.S. pair for the first time (Lu and Mitrofanov) at a lower-level event in December.

U.S. pairs’ skating has been so volatile that Knierim could be the first pairs’ skater to make back-to-back Olympics in 20 years (Kyoko Ina, also with different partners). The last U.S. Olympic pairs’ medal came in 1988.

The last figure skater to successfully petition for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team after not competing at nationals was Michelle Kwan in 2006. Kwan ultimately withdrew after arriving for the Torino Games, but before competition, due to a groin injury and was replaced by Emily Hughes.

The last time the Olympic pairs’ roster did not mirror nationals results was 1998, when three-time U.S. champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand were named to the team after withdrawing before the free skate due to Meno’s ankle injury. Meno and Sand now coach Knierim and Frazier.

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report from Nashville.

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U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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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.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

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 vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final