LeDuc becomes first publicly out non-binary athlete on a winter Olympic team as U.S. pairs’ team named

2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Day 3
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Recently crowned national champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc and Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who withdrew from the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships before it started when Frazier contracted Covid-19, were named to the U.S. Olympic team Sunday morning.

At an average age of 29.6 years old, they make up the oldest U.S. Olympic pairs’ figure skating team in 90 years.

LeDuc, 31, became the first openly gay athlete to win gold in a U.S. pairs’ event in 2019 and this year the first publicly out non-binary athlete to win a U.S. Championships event in any discipline. Next month they will become the first publicly out non-binary athlete to compete at a Winter Olympics.

The U.S. returns to fielding two Olympic pairs’ teams for next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics after only qualifying one — Knierim and her husband Chris — for PyeongChang in 2018. Though this week was expected to see a battle between Cain-Gribble/LeDuc, Knierim/Frazier and two-time reigning U.S. silver medalists Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson, who again finished second on Saturday, the teams selected represent the two most recent U.S. champions and the top U.S. pairs’ teams at the two most recent world championships. It is an impressive squad, with seven of the last eight U.S. titles captured between the four skaters.

Calalang and Johnson were named first alternates, with Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov second alternates and Emily Chan/Spencer Howe third, following the order of results at nationals.

A strong finish by either team at the Olympics could produce the first top-five finish by Americans in pairs in 20 years.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

Unable to contend for the title in Nashville, Knierim and Frazier petitioned onto the team and were chosen based on a body of work over the past year that includes seventh at the 2021 World Championships in their first season together and Grand Prix finishes of third and fourth this fall, the best for any U.S. team.

Knierim is the only member of the team with Olympic experience and the first U.S. pairs’ skater to return to an Olympics in 20 years. She and Chris were 15th in 2018 and helped the U.S. to a bronze medal in the team event. In Beijing she will become the oldest U.S. women’s pairs’ Olympian in 30 years.

U.S. champions in 2015, 2018 and 2020, the Knierims ended their competitive skating partnership in 2020, just when 2017 U.S. champs Frazier, 29, and Haven Denney ended theirs. The longtime friends then teamed up for one of the fastest rising U.S. pairs’ teams in history. Chris is now one of the team’s coaches.

Cain-Gribble, 26, and LeDuc are in their sixth season competing together and have consistently placed in the top four at the U.S. Championships, winning in 2019 and 2021 plus taking bronze in 2017 and 2021. They were ninth at their 2019 and 2021 world championships appearances.

The pairs’ teams join Mariah BellKaren Chen and Alysa Liu on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team. The three ice dance teams and three men will be named later Sunday.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde
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BEAVER CREEK, Colorado — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph (121 kph) in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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