At figure skating worlds, U.S. women in medal contention after short program

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Americans Mariah Bell and Alysa Liu are third and fifth after the world figure skating championships short program, looking to deliver the first U.S. women’s medal in six years and in the absence of Russian stars.

The national champion Bell recorded a personal-best 72.55 points, which is 7.77 behind leader Kaori Sakamoto and 2.45 points behind Belgian Loena Hendrickx going into Friday’s free skate in Montpellier, France,

Liu followed with 71.91 points, .17 behind South Korean You Young for fourth place.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

A non-Russian will win the world title for the first time since 2018 due to that nation’s ban after the invasion of Ukraine. Russians swept the medals at last year’s world championships and finished first, second and fourth at the Olympics last month.

Sakamoto, the Olympic bronze medalist, entered as the favorite and delivered a clean short capped by a triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

“With the Russian skaters no longer taking part in this competition, all of a sudden I was considered to be the gold medalist candidate,” Sakamoto said, according to a translator. “In the beginning, because I wasn’t really in top form, it was hard for me to try to push myself, and I also felt a gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. But over the days, my performance started to really pick up, and gradually I was able to tell myself that it wasn’t really the result that counted.”

Bell, 10th at the Olympics, and Liu, seventh at the Olympics, are bidding to become the first U.S. woman to win a world medal since Ashley Wagner took silver in 2016, ending a 10-year drought.

Bell, after FaceTiming with coach Adam Rippon, who is not on site, opened her short with a triple flip-triple toe combo. Bell then FaceTimed again with Rippon after her skate, for which she upped her previous personal best from the 2019 Worlds.

“Part of the Olympic hangover helped me,” said Bell, who performed at a show in Switzerland between the Olympics and worlds. “I rested a lot the last couple of weeks but was able to train well.”

Liu cried after her clean program and hopes to attempt a triple Axel in the free skate.

“I don’t know if I looked I sad, maybe I did, but they were happy tears,” said the 16-year-old, who added that she was not distracted by the Justice Department announcing charges this week alleging that Chinese government officials had spied on Liu and her father leading up to the Olympics. Liu’s father was first contacted by the FBI in October, according to The Associated Press.

The third American, Karen Chen, popped a triple loop that gave her trouble at the Olympics and is eighth.

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Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

Joel Embiid
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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

Delta LA 2028
LA 2028
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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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