U.S. Figure Skating Championships mark start of new era

Ilia Malinin

Before a single jump, throw or twizzle, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships that begin Thursday are already guaranteed to be unlike any nationals in the last three decades.

The post-Olympic season always brings changes, but a conveyor belt of athlete retirements and indefinite breaks accelerated a generational shift across disciplines. For the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships bring back a reigning national champion in just one of the four events. (In 1999, just Michelle Kwan, plus pairs’ skater Kyoko Ina, with a different partner, returned.)

New leaders emerged this past fall.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old left off the Olympic team due to inexperience despite a second-place finish at last January’s nationals, became the first skater to land a quadruple Axel. Then he landed it again and again and again.

Isabeau Levito, a 15-year-old who was third in her senior nationals debut last January, placed second at the most prestigious international competition so far this season, December’s Grand Prix Final. It was the best U.S. women’s singles finish at that event in a decade, though it of course came without any Russians in the field.

While veterans continued to pace the U.S. in pairs (world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier) and ice dance (Madison Chock and Evan Bates), younger duos hit milestones on the fall Grand Prix circuit, too.

Opportunity hasn’t been this great since the professionalization of the sport in the early 1990s, which gave athletes more incentive to stick around for multiple Olympic cycles.

Openings abound because the U.S. qualified the maximum three entries in all four disciplines for the world championships for the first time since 1982. A committee chooses the roster for March’s worlds after nationals.


The skaters who filled those spots in the recent past have, for the most part, left competitive ice. A timeline:

March 26, 2022: Ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue follow their Olympic bronze with world championships silver in their long-planned final competition.

April 9: Alysa Liu, the top U.S. woman at the Olympics in seventh place, announces her retirement at age 16, two weeks after winning a world championships bronze medal.

June 13: U.S. pairs’ champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc announce they’re finished with competitive skating.

July 22: The International Skating Union publishes fields for the fall Grand Prix Series. None of the six U.S. Olympic singles skaters are on the list, indicating they do not plan to compete the rest of the year, at least. That includes Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen, world bronze medalist Vincent Zhou and two-time Olympians Karen Chen and Jason Brown. Brown does plan to compete for the first time in 11 months at nationals this week.

Oct. 12: Mariah Bell, who in January became the oldest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in 95 years, announces her retirement at 25.

A week after Bell’s news, the figure skating season began in earnest at Skate America.

Malinin seized it by landing a quad Axel in his free skate, jumping from fourth place to become the youngest men’s champion in the event’s history. He succeeded Nathan Chen, who is not expected to compete again but has not ruled it out, as the face of U.S. figure skating, a role he seems comfortable with, noting his breakout at last year’s nationals.

“There was a lot of pressure,” said the son of Russian-born, Uzbek Olympic figure skaters who moved to Virginia in 1998. “But I was able to compete under pressure.”

Over the course of the six-event Grand Prix Series, other Americans had moments, too.

Starr Andrews performed the free skate of her international career to take runner-up at Skate Canada.

The U.S. had its best-ever results in pairs. Knierim and Frazier won both of their starts. Emily Chan and Spencer Howe, who ranked 24th in the world last season by best total score, placed second in their two events.

In ice dance, Chock and Bates earned their first Grand Prix title in seven years. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who finished between third and fifth at the last eight U.S. Championships, had their best Grand Prix Series with a pair of runners-up. (Hawayek and Baker are skipping nationals to prioritize mental health but plan to petition for a world team spot.)

Those roads led to December’s Grand Prix Final, where the U.S. was represented on all four podiums for the first time in competition history. Levito was the standout there, becoming the third-youngest American to win a Grand Prix Final medal after Tara Lipinski and Kwan  and cementing herself as the new leading U.S. woman.

Before the Final, Levito looked ahead to nationals with a thought that others can carry this week.

“I’m not concerned about the attention from being a favorite,” she said. “I’m just really excited to hopefully do better than last year.”

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw

IOC board recommends withdrawing International Boxing Association’s recognition

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Boxing

The IOC finally ran out of patience with the International Boxing Federation on Wednesday and set a date to terminate its Olympic status this month.

While boxing will still be on the program at the 2024 Paris Games, the International Olympic Committee said its executive board has asked the full membership to withdraw its recognition of the IBA at a special meeting on June 22.

IOC members rarely vote against recommendations from their 15-member board and the IBA’s ouster is likely a formality.

The IOC had already suspended the IBA’s recognition in 2019 over long-standing financial, sports integrity and governance issues. The Olympic body oversaw the boxing competitions itself at the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 and will do so again for Paris.

An IOC statement said the boxing body “has failed to fulfil the conditions set by the IOC … for lifting the suspension of the IBA’s recognition.”

The IBA criticized what it called a “truly abhorrent and purely political” decision by the IOC and warned of “retaliatory measures.”

“Now, we are left with no chance but to demand a fair assessment from a competent court,” the boxing body’s Russian president Umar Kremlev said in a statement.

The IOC-IBA standoff has also put boxing’s place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games at risk, though that should now be resolved.

The IOC previously stressed it has no problem with the sport or its athletes — just the IBA and its current president Kremlev, plus financial dependence on Russian state energy firm Gazprom.

In a 24-page report on IBA issues published Wednesday, the IOC concluded “the accumulation of all of these points, and the constant lack of drastic evolution throughout the many years, creates a situation of no-return.”

Olympic boxing’s reputation has been in question for decades. Tensions heightened after boxing officials worldwide ousted long-time IOC member C.K. Wu as their president in 2017 when the organization was known by its French acronym AIBA.

“From a disreputable organization named AIBA governed by someone from the IOC’s upper echelon, we committed to and executed a change in the toxic and corrupt culture that was allowed to fester under the IOC for far too long,” Kremlev said Wednesday in a statement.

National federations then defied IOC warnings in 2018 by electing as their president Gafur Rakhimov, a businessman from Uzbekistan with alleged ties to organized crime and heroin trafficking.

Kremlev’s election to replace Rakhimov in 2020 followed another round of IOC warnings that went unheeded.

Amid the IBA turmoil, a rival organization called World Boxing has attracted initial support from officials in the United States, Switzerland and Britain.

The IBA can still continue to organize its own events and held the men’s world championships last month in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

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