Madison Chock, Evan Bates lead group of U.S. figure skaters to qualify for Grand Prix Final

Madison Chock, Evan Bates
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Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates led a group of five U.S. figure skaters to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final after the NHK Trophy event finished on Saturday.

Chock and Bates, three-time world medalists, finished runner-up to Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen at NHK in Japan, the fifth of six Grand Prix Series events that act as qualifiers for the Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the season.

The Final is often a preview of March’s world championships.

Chock and Bates qualified for the Final by combining their win at Skate America in October with their runner-up at NHK.

They became the first U.S. skaters in any discipline to qualify for seven Grand Prix Finals (if including last year, when the Final was canceled after the qualifying series finished). They will tie the U.S. record of six Grand Prix Final starts held by 2014 Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Bates, 33, broke the record of oldest American to qualify for a Final held by pairs’ skater Todd Sand from the 1996-97 season. Bates is already the only U.S. figure skater to compete in four Winter Olympics and the oldest to win a medal (in the team event).

Chock and Bates will look for their first Grand Prix Final title, and the biggest international title of their careers, after silver medals at the event in 2014, 2015 and 2019.

They rank fifth in the world this season by best total score (209.13 points). Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who have not gone head-to-head with Chock and Bates this season, rank first with 215.70 points.

None of the Olympic medalists from February are competing this fall: French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are taking at least this season off. Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are banned indefinitely, along with all Russian skaters, due to the war in Ukraine. Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue retired.

NHK Trophy highlights air Sunday on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: NHK Trophy Results | Season Broadcast Schedule

Also Saturday, world champion Shoma Uno of Japan won the men’s event with the world’s second-best total score this season (279.76). Only American Ilia Malinin has scored higher this season (280.37 to win Skate America).

Uno and Malinin will go head-to-head for the first time this fall at the Grand Prix Final, should Malinin have a decent result at his second Grand Prix start next week in Finland.

Also at NHK, Yelim Kim held off world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan to become the second South Korean to win a Grand Prix after 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim.

The NHK results also ensured world junior champion Isabeau Levito earned a place in the Final with her second-place finishes at two prior Grand Prix events. Levito, 15, is the youngest American to qualify for a Final since Caroline Zhang in 2007.

Fellow Americans Starr Andrews and Amber Glenn followed their first Grand Prix podiums earlier this season by placing ninth and 11th at NHK. They needed podium finishes to remain in contention to qualify for the Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs’ title at NHK, improving on their world-leading score this season. Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Howe were second to join the Japanese in the Grand Prix Final. Americans Brandon Frazier and Alexa Knierim, the world champions, and Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps qualified for the Final earlier this month.

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Rosie MacLennan, Olympic trampoline legend, retires

Rosie MacLennan
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Canadian Rosie MacLennan, the lone person to win two Olympic trampoline gold medals, announced her retirement at age 34.

“After 10 World Championships and 4 Olympic Games, it is time for me to hang up my shiny spandex,” she posted on social media. “Trampoline has been such an integral part of my life and sport will continue to be, even if my role in sport is changing. My experience as an athlete has exceeded even my wildest childhood dreams.”

MacLennan won Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 in an event that debuted at the 2000 Sydney Games. She was fourth at her last Olympics in Tokyo. MacLennan, Canada’s flag bearer at the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony, also earned world titles in 2013 and 2018 among seven world medals overall.

MacLennan came back from two concussions in 2015 — over-rotating a jump in training and later when she was accidentally hit on the head by a car trunk — to win her second Olympic title. She came back from an April 2019 broken ankle to reach her fourth Olympics.

MacLennan, who qualified for her first world age group competition at age 11, spent more than 26 years in the sport.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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Jessie Diggins ties U.S. record for World Cup cross-country skiing wins

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Jessie Diggins tied Kikkan Randall‘s U.S. record with her 13th career individual cross-country skiing World Cup victory, taking a 10km freestyle in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday.

Diggins, the most decorated U.S. Olympic cross-country skier with a medal of every color, prevailed by 3.8 seconds over German Katharina Hennig in the interval start event. Diggins trailed Hennig by one second at the 8.2-kilometer split, then made up 4.8 seconds over the final four minutes of the course.

“My fitness and brain were in a really good place,” Diggins said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “When I asked my body to go deep into the pain cave, it responded.”

Diggins tied the record of Randall, who in 2007 became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross-country skiing race and ended her career by teaming with Diggins to win the first U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing title at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. (Another skier, Alison Owen-Spencer, won a race in 1978 that U.S. Ski and Snowboard counts as a World Cup, but the International Ski Federation does not.)

Diggins opened this World Cup season last weekend in Ruka, Finland, with a best finish of 10th among three races. She trended up each day, finishing that stop with the second-fastest time in last Sunday’s individual pursuit (where she started 19th).

Diggins, 31, has spread out her goals this season. One of the biggest is helping the U.S. win a relay medal for the first time at the world championships in three months. Diggins has been a part of relays that finished fourth at four different worlds.

She also eyes the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport that goes to the best all-around skier for the season. In 2020-21, Diggins became the second American — and first American woman — to win the overall in a season where Norway’s top skiers, including superstar Therese Johaug, skipped early season races and chances to gain points for the overall title.

Johaug retired after winning three individual golds at last February’s Olympics. Diggins is the top returning skier given the absence of reigning overall champ Natalya Nepryayeva, who cannot compete due to the ban on Russian athletes for the war in Ukraine.

The World Cup season continues with a freestyle sprint on Saturday and a classic 20km mass start on Sunday in Lillehammer.

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