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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Isabeau Levito, Bradie Tennell, Amber Glenn named to U.S. team for World Championships

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – With a calm command belying her age, Isabeau Levito has taken control of U.S. women’s skating at age 15.

Levito came here as the solid favorite to take her first national title, and she did it with a seemingly effortless grace, her balletic style producing solid winning performances in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate.

She was the last of 18 skaters in the free skate, following rivals who made mistakes big and small. Levito did not need perfection, but her skating approached it, even if the execution of some jumps could have been better.

Levito left no doubt of her superiority and burst into a wide smile even before the scores were announced. After a narrow win over Bradie Tennell (.02 points) in the short program, Levito (223.33) wound up 10.21 points ahead of the runner-up Tennell (213.12) in the final standings.

Amber Glenn was third at 207.44. She, Levito and Tennell will fill the three women’s places on the U.S. team for the March World Championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Two of the three U.S. women’s skaters on the 2022 Olympic team have announced their retirements (Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell; Karen Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return). Given that and Tennell’s recurrent problems with injuries, Levito’s stature as the leading U.S. woman seemed assured. Whatever pressure she felt holding that position was not evident.

“My entire goal truly for both programs was to stay composed and to really try to suppress my nerves as much as possible and to really not let little minor silly mistakes happen,” Levito said. “I feel as though I did just that today and I’m very proud of myself for it.”

“I’ve gotten very good at suppressing nerves,” she had said after the short program. “I still feel the effects of the competition. But I find my own way mentally to handle it.”

For both Tennell and Glenn, there was a redemptive quality to their skating.

Neither had a result at last year’s nationals. Glenn had to withdraw after the short program when she tested positive for COVID. Tennell never made it to the event because of the foot injury that kept her out of competition for all last season.

“Honestly, it was terrifying being back here after the conclusion of my season last year,” Glenn said. “That was a big mental hurdle for me, but I was happy I was actually able to enjoy myself again and enjoy competing.”

Glenn made her 10th career attempt at a triple axel, stepping out of the landing after getting full rotational credit. Her persistence in trying that jump, which she never has landed cleanly, is one reason she was holding her hip after finishing the free skate. Glenn insisted it was just soreness.

“An unfortunate side effect of being 23 and doing these ultra (difficult) elements is my body can’t always keep up very well,” Glenn said.

Tennell, who turns 25 Tuesday, has been battling an injury in her right foot for more than a year, then an injury in her left foot since October. She fought past all that to make the podium for the fifth time in her last five nationals – twice first, twice second and once third.

“This one probably means the most, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this again,” Tennell said. “To be here and to have achieved it, especially after the (poor) start of my season and the bumps that I had to overcome, I’m very proud of what I accomplished.”

Levito, the reigning world junior champion, reeled off seven triple jumps, two in combination with other triple jumps. She glided from element to element seamlessly.

“I finally skated the free the way I’ve been training to do it,” she said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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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.

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