Paralympic champion Mallory Weggemann swims at nationals six months pregnant

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CHARLOTTE — Moments before her first swim at the national championships, Mallory Weggemann placed her hand on her belly. She felt her child kicking. She scanned the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center and saw her husband and her parents.

Then Weggemann did what she has done so many times over a career that’s spanned three Paralympic Games, including five medals (three golds). She raced.

This time, she did so while 26 weeks pregnant.

“I’m sharing one of the things I love most in this world with our child,” she said. “Also understanding that when I get on those blocks, and I dive off with my wheelchair beside me, that is about something so much bigger than baby and I. In terms of what it can show for a path forward for other individuals, and, frankly, what it can do to help change perception of what’s possible.”

Weggemann, a 33-year-old due with her first child in March, covered the 50m butterfly in 41.54 seconds in the morning heats and 40.01 seconds in Friday’s finals, where athletes in different classifications swam in the same heats.

At the Tokyo Paralympics, Weggemann won silver in the 50m fly in 34.30 seconds (along with two other gold medals), but the time wasn’t so important on Friday.

“I knew it was less about the race and more about what the race and what doing it would stand for,” Weggemann said after her morning swim. “Just showcasing what women are capable of and what individuals with disabilities are capable of.”

Weggemann and her husband, Jay Snyder, detailed their journey through male factor infertility and IVF, which included Weggemann medically withdrawing from this past June’s world championships.

“Two egg retrievals, a microTESE surgery, hormonal treatment for suspected endometriosis, an unsuccessful transfer, a mock transfer cycle, an operative hysteroscopy and 440 injections (and counting),” she wrote in August in announcing her pregnancy to her social media followers. “It has taken science, the best care team there is and a lot of love and here we are with our little miracle on the way!”

Weggemann plans to return from childbirth to bid for a fourth Paralympics in Paris in 2024. It would be her latest comeback.

She swam at her first Paralympics — and won her first gold medal — four years after losing movement from the waist down while receiving epidural injections to treat shingles. She was 18 years old.

In 2014, Weggemann had what she called a horrific fall to a shower floor when her bench collapsed from underneath her in a New York City accessible hotel room. She suffered permanent nerve damage and lost both the grip in her left hand and about 75 percent of function in that arm. She considered retirement while forced out of the pool for several months. But she returned and swam at her second Paralympics in 2016.

In 2017, she underwent a six-hour surgery, removing two muscles and a rib in her upper chest. That December, another muscle was detached from her left side. At one point, Snyder slept for two weeks on a cot next to her hospital bed. She went 18 months between swimming. She made it back for the Tokyo Games, where she had her best medal haul yet — two golds and one silver.

What is left to accomplish at a fourth Paralympics?

“Win a gold medal as a mom,” she said. “I think about sitting on that podium with my husband and a little one in the stands.”

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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