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

Nathan Chen
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the last event to decide the Olympic team, continues Saturday with the men’s short program, pairs’ free skate and rhythm dance, live from Nashville on NBC, USA Network, NBCOlympics.com and Peacock.

In the men’s short (4 p.m. ET), Nathan Chen begins his bid for a sixth consecutive national title and second trip to the Olympics. Chen has one defeat in this Olympic cycle — to countryman Vincent Zhou at Skate America three months ago.

Zhou, ranked second in the world behind Chen this season, is also looking to return to the Olympics.

As is Jason Brown, the clear third American man in this Olympic cycle, who competed at the 2014 Sochi Games. Brown didn’t arrive in Nashville until Friday after 33 hours of travel, five canceled flights, four airline changes, three airports, two countries, an overnight in Atlanta and a rental car.

Men’s Short Program (4 p.m. ET) — STREAM LINK | LIVE RESULTS
Notable Skaters
Ilia Malinin — 4:15 p.m.
Jason Brown — 4:22 p.m.
Jimmy Ma — 5:18 p.m.
Yarolsav Paniot — 5:25 p.m.
Nathan Chen — 5:31 p.m.
Vincent Zhou — 5:44 p.m.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

In the pairs’ free skate (7 p.m. ET), it appears two teams are vying for one Olympic spot.

Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc lead Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson by 1.91 points after the short program. Each pair eyes a first Olympics.

The U.S. has two Olympic pairs’ spots, but reigning national champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier look likely to take one via petition. They withdrew the day before nationals after Frazier contracted the coronavirus.

Pairs’ Free Skate (7 p.m. ET) — STREAM LINK | LIVE RESULTS
Notable Skaters

Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov — 7:32 p.m.
Ashley Cain-Gribble/Timothy LeDuc — 7:48 p.m.
Jessica Calalang/Brian Johnson — 7:56 p.m.

In the free dance (8:30 p.m. ET), there are two battles — for the national title and for the third and final Olympic spot.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are Olympic medal contenders and considered locks for the U.S. team. Chock and Bates lead their training partners by 2.55 points after the rhythm dance.

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker finished third at every nationals in this Olympic cycle, but they trail Caroline Green and Michael Parsons by 1.46 points going into the free dance.

Free Dance (8:30 p.m. ET) — STREAM LINK | LIVE RESULTS
Notable Skaters

Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 9:14 p.m.
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 9:29 p.m.
Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 9:37 p.m.
Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 9:44 p.m.

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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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