2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships: What to watch on Friday

2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Day 1
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the last competition to determine the Olympic team, continues Friday with the rhythm dance and women’s free skate, live from Nashville on USA Network, NBCOlympics.com and Peacock.

In the rhythm dance (4:30 p.m. ET), the top couples begin their bids to lock up one of three Olympic ice dance spots, which will be announced after Saturday’s free dance.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who combined to win the last four national titles, are favorites to again go one-two this weekend. It’s the last national championships for Hubbell and Donohue, who hope to end their Olympic careers next month with a medal after finishing fourth in 2018.

Chock and Bates plan to continue beyond this season. Nonetheless, Bates can become the first U.S. figure skater to compete in four Olympics.

The battle for the third Olympic spot is expected to come down to Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who have been third at every nationals in this Olympic cycle, and the newer team of Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, who formerly skated with siblings.

Rhythm Dance (4:30 p.m. ET) — STREAM LINK | LIVE RESULTS
Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 4:50 p.m.
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 5:03 p.m.
Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 5:23 p.m.
Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 5:30 p.m.
Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 5:43 p.m.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS PREVIEWS: MenIce Dance | Broadcast Schedule | Results

In the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET), pre-event favorites Mariah BellKaren Chen and Alysa Liu made up the top three in the short program.

Liu then tested positive for the coronavirus Friday morning and withdrew, planning to petition for an Olympic spot. She has a strong case as the highest-ranked U.S. woman in the world this season.

Bell, the short program leader, can at age 25 became the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 95 years and the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater in 94 years, according to Olympedia.org. She bids for her first national title in her ninth senior nationals.

Chen, the lone 2018 Olympian in the field, is set to become the first U.S. women’s singles skater to compete in back-to-back Olympics since Sasha Cohen in 2002 and 2006.

They’re followed by Isabeau Levito, who at 14 is too young for this year’s Olympics, and Lindsay Thorngren, a 15-year-old who is Olympic eligible but has never competed on the top senior level.

Given the Olympic selection committee chooses the three-woman team based on the last year’s body of work, it might not be enough for Thorngren even if she moves past the more established Bell or Chen in the free skate. Same goes for 2014 Olympian Gracie Gold, who was sixth in the short program with her best skate in five years.

Women’s Free Skate (8 p.m. ET) — STREAM LINK | LIVE RESULTS
Isabeau Levito — 10:04 p.m.
Gracie Gold — 10:12 p.m.
Lindsay Thorngren — 10:20 p.m.
Mariah Bell — 10:28 p.m.
Alysa Liu — 10:36 p.m.
Karen Chen — 10:44 p.m.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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