Johnny Weir previews figure skating season on new ‘Chasing Gold’ episode

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The season after the Olympics always brings changes in figure skating, but this may be unprecedented in the professional era.

The Grand Prix Series, the sport’s top-level circuit, opens next week with Skate America and an abundance of new faces to highlight.

NBC Sports analyst Johnny Weir set the stage in an interview for “Chasing Gold,” NBC Sports’ monthly Olympic and Paralympic show. The episode debuts Sunday at 12 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app and is available on Peacock starting Monday.

None of the reigning Olympic gold medalists are currently competing.

Nathan Chen is on an indefinite, perhaps permanent, break while he resumes classes at Yale. French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are sitting out at least this entire season. China’s pairs champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong did not enter any Grand Prix event. Anna Shcherbakova, the women’s gold medalist, is from Russia, a nation banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine.

Enter Ilia Malinin, the 17-year-old world junior champion from Virginia. Malinin, the son of Uzbek Olympic skaters, last month became the first person to land a quadruple Axel in competition. The Axel is the hardest jump because it is the only one with a forward takeoff, adding an extra half-revolution. All of the other quad jumps had previously been done.

“It is just out of this world,” Weir said of Malinin’s new jump. “I never thought in my lifetime I’d see somebody do a quad Axel.”

Malinin will look to follow the same blueprint as Chen, building on his arsenal of quads with artistry leading up to the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.

Malinin headlines the Skate America men’s field. The women’s field also includes the reigning world junior champion: 15-year-old Isabeau Levito of New Jersey.

Levito was third at the U.S. Championships in January but too young for the Olympics. This is her senior international debut season.

“She skates as light as a hummingbird,” Weir said. “It’s almost like she’s whispering when she performs, but her jumps are so strong.”

In April, Levito became the first U.S. woman to win a junior world title in 14 years. The last U.S. woman to win a senior world title was Kimmie Meissner in 2006.

“It really has been a moment [since] we’ve seen an American woman that can challenge the rest of the world,” Weir said, “and I think [Levito] can do it.”

The U.S. also boasts top returning teams in pairs (world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier) and ice dance (world bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates), who are also entered in Skate America.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — 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.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

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.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph 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).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

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. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

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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