Chase Ealey returns home at USATF Indoors a world champ after COVID denied her Olympics


Chase Ealey went from a favorite to qualify for the Tokyo Games at the start of 2020, to after the postponement missing the Olympics in 2021 to winning a world championship in 2022.

In those two and a half years, Ealey probably would have retired if not for a Scottish steeplechaser. She also met the Englishman whom she called her shot put savior. She got engaged.

At the venue of her lowest moment as an athlete in 2021, Ealey experienced her greatest success in 2022. She does not dwell on that poetic story arc.

“I always say, in sports, you’ve got to be a goldfish,” she said, channeling Ted Lasso. “You’ve got to forget the bad and the good.”

Ealey is a headliner at the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships (airing Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock). They are in Albuquerque, about 75 miles south of her hometown of Los Alamos.

She didn’t consider missing this meet while slowed by a rib muscle injury this winter.

“Hell or high water, I’m going to go and see my family and let them watch me throw,” she said. “I can have a broken leg, and I’m going to go.”

As a New Mexico high schooler, Ealey swept state titles in the 100m, javelin and shot put her junior and senior years. Her throws were complementary to her sprinting (and a venue for her to spend more time with her older sister).

Some recruiters wanted her to become a heptathlete, but she came to prefer the shot. “Why run and puke when you can throw and eat?” is advice she remembered years later. She chose to do it at Oklahoma State.

After her last NCAA season, she placed seventh at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Ealey continued on, but didn’t make the 2017 World Championships team and by 2018 was ready to retire. She might have if not for 2012 Olympic shot putter Ryan Whiting, who offered to coach her if she switched her throwing technique from gliding in the ring to spinning. Historically, the world’s top women glided.

Ealey believes that the 2018 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships was her first meet as a spinner. She fouled all three throws, including one that hit a marker outside of the sector.

The transition took time. She went six months before her next meet in January 2019. Ealey won the U.S. indoor and outdoor titles that year, then was seventh at the world championships in Doha. For the year, she had the world’s second-best throw. Ealey was primed to make her first Olympic team in 2020, and to be a medal contender until the Games were postponed by one year.

Ealey contracted COVID twice in 2020. The second bout, which lasted from late 2020 into early 2021, had severe, lasting consequences. A doctor told her that her senses of smell and taste, which she temporarily lost, healed incorrectly.

She began throwing up every meal. Fluids went down fine, “so I was living off the shakes that elderly people eat,” she said. The prognosis: It will correct itself, but it may take three to six months. Ealey lost 40 pounds.

She likened it to being stuck in a sinking boat with a life jacket.

“I was trying to lose weight already, but this was too much too fast,” she said. “I couldn’t keep up with my body changing. So I didn’t really know how to work with the body I had for months. I think it killed my confidence. My mentality was just gone after that.”

Ealey routinely threw 19 meters in 2019. In 2021, she cracked 18.4 meters in just one of her first eight meets. She entered Olympic Trials ranked seventh in the nation for the year.

She remembers walking into Oregon’s Hayward Field for trials with, in retrospect, a false confidence.

She had improved physically, “but then it was about trying to get back in the little amount of time I had. The overall mental effect is what really held me down the most,” she said. “I was trying to fake it ’til I make it, but the problem is shot put in the U.S. is what it is. It’s competitive as hell.”

She finished fifth, missing the Olympic team by two spots. She sat with fourth-place finisher Maggie Ewen, who in 2019 ranked second behind Ealey in the U.S.

“We both just kind of started crying,” Ealey said. “It was probably the lowest I’ve ever felt as an athlete, I think because I knew my potential was great.”

Three weeks later, Ealey competed at a small meet in California and launched a throw that would have put her on the Olympic team at trials.

“That kind of sucked,” she said. “But, in the U.S., if you have a bad day at trials, it doesn’t matter [what you do afterward].”

Ealey credited sports psychologist Lennie Waite with helping her through 2021. Waite, a 2016 Olympic steeplechaser from Scotland, “got me out of a hole, and I think without her I probably would have retired,” she said.

Then came another Brit before the start of the 2022 season.

Paul Wilson, a part-time throws coach, full-time sales manager for a windows and doors company and Leeds United season-ticket holder, approached Ealey while she threw at a training camp in Loughborough. He asked if he could offer a technique tip, and it eventually led to Ealey moving overseas to join his training group.

“We worked hard on getting her to use her legs and to use the hip because the hip wasn’t coming through for the release of the ball,” said Wilson, who stopped throwing in his teens after tearing a knee ligament in a rugby scrum. “For [the first] two or three days, she was walking like John Wayne just because she hasn’t used her hips before.”

Ealey exploded. At last March’s world indoor championships, she tied the American record and won the silver medal. Outdoors, she upped her personal best at four consecutive meets across four countries on two continents over 27 days.

The last one, the second-best outdoor throw in American history, came at nationals at Hayward Field. She prevailed at the same place where she had missed the Olympic team the year before.

Three weeks later, she became the first U.S. woman to win a world title in the shot put, also at Hayward. Ealey was in tears.

“All I could think was I really want to validate myself and show what I know I was capable of from the beginning,” she said. “It all kind of culminated in that moment. I said, ‘This is me. I’m not out. I was down, but I’m not gone.'”

As soon as the competition ended, Ealey became a runner again, rushing to the stands to hug her boyfriend (now fiancé). Then she embraced Wilson, who in that moment reminded her that he told her she could do it. It is believed that Ealey is the first woman to win an Olympic or world shot put title as a spinner, not a glider, said Daniel McQuaid of

“Paul is probably my savior as an athlete,” she said, adding that she’s still close with Whiting. “He keeps me really grounded and calm. Paul has a lot to do with where my mentality was, which, in my opinion, 95% of competing is mental.”

Ealey has an appointment with her tattoo artist in California to commemorate the world title, though she is keeping the design a secret. Of her many tattoos, a favorite is a leg sleeve dedicated to her favorite director Tim Burton‘s films.

In the meantime, she now competes carrying not only an 8.8-pound ball, but also sometimes feeling the weight of being a world champion. So she’s adopting the goldfish mentality.

Wilson echoed what longtime throws coach Don Babbitt told him.

“The easy part is getting to be world champion,” he said. “The hardest part is everyone wants a piece of you.”

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Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Chock, Bates, and a long road to gold | Results

As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

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

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Shoma Uno repeats as world figure skating champion; Ilia Malinin tries 6 quads for bronze


Japan’s Shoma Uno repeated as world figure skating champion, performing the total package of jumps and artistry immediately after 18-year-old American Ilia Malinin attempted a record-tying six quadruple jumps in his free skate to earn the bronze medal.

Uno, 25 and the leader after Thursday’s short program, prevailed with five quad attempts (one under-rotated) in Saturday’s free skate.

He finished, fell backward and lay on home ice in Saitama, soaking in a standing ovation amid a sea of Japanese flags. Japan won three of the four gold medals this week, and Uno capped it off with guts coming off a reported ankle injury.

He is the face of Japanese men’s skating after two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired in July and Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama missed most of this season with leg and ankle injuries.

“There were many shaky jumps today, but I’m happy I was able to get a good result despite not being in a good condition these past two weeks,” Uno said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “I know I caused a lot of concerns to everyone around me, but I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today.”

Silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan became the first South Korean man to win a world championships medal. Cha, a 21-year-old who was fifth at the Olympics, had to change out broken skate boots before traveling to Japan, one year after withdrawing from worlds after a 17th-place short program, citing a broken skate boot.


Malinin, ninth in his senior worlds debut last year, planned the most difficult program of jumps in figure skating history — six quads, including a quad Axel. Malinin is the only person to land a quad Axel in competition and did so again Saturday. He still finished 12.7 points behind Uno and 7.59 behind Cha.

Malinin had the top technical score (jumps, spins, step sequences) in both programs, despite an under-rotation and two other negatively graded jumps among his seven jumping passes in the free skate.

His nemesis was the artistic score, placing 10th and 11th in that category in the two programs (18.44 points behind Uno). Unsurprising for the only teen in the top 13, who is still working on that facet of his skating, much like a young Nathan Chen several years ago.

“After doing a lot of these jumps — hard, difficult jumps — it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” said Malinin, who entered worlds ranked second in the field by best score this season behind Uno.

Chen, who is unlikely to compete again after winning last year’s Olympics, remains the lone skater to land six fully rotated quads in one program (though not all clean). Malinin became the youngest U.S. male singles skater to win a world medal since Scott Allen in 1965. He was proud of his performance, upping the ante after previously trying five quads in free skates this season, but afterward weighed whether the risk was worth it.

“Sometimes going for the risk, you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and try not to take as much risk and go for a lot cleaner skate,” he said. “I think that’ll be beneficial to do next season is to lower the standards a bit.”

Malinin was followed by Frenchman Kévin Aymoz, who before the pandemic was the world’s third-ranked skater behind Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, then placed ninth, 11th and 12th at the last three global championships.

Jason Brown, a two-time U.S. Olympian, was fifth in his first international competition since last year’s Olympics. He was the lone man in the top 15 to not attempt a quad, a testament to his incredible artistic skills for which he received the most points between the two programs.

“I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that I even would be competing this year, so I’m really touched to be here,” the 28-year-old said, according to the ISU. “I still want to keep going [competing] a little longer, but we’ll see. I won’t do promises.”

Earlier Saturday, Madison Chock and Evan Bates became the oldest couple to win an ice dance world title and the second set of Americans to do so. More on that here.

World championships highlights air Saturday from 8-10 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

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