olympics

Maddie Bowman, first Olympic ski halfpipe champion, ends competitive career

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Maddie Bowman knows she has been very fortunate. She just turned 26 years old and has already accomplished everything she wanted in her sport, halfpipe skiing.

Bowman, who won the event’s Olympic debut in Sochi in 2014, recently decided to retire from competition.

“I’ve really given the sport everything I could that was positive, and I knew the sport would be in great hands when I walked away,” she said. “So I decided it was my time to be done.

“I just felt like I couldn’t give anything else to the sport because I was a little bit afraid [of injury], but also it’s mentally exhausting. It drained my mental health for sure, but I loved doing it, and I still love skiing. Competition just isn’t for me anymore.”

The decision weighed on the South Lake Tahoe native last season. She competed at the Winter X Games for the last time, taking fifth place. She earned medals each of the previous seven years, including five golds, despite undergoing two major knee surgeries in that span.

“I was thinking [last year] that this is really hard, and I don’t know if I want to keep doing this,” she said. “It was really hard for me to get into the right mental state again. It’s painful. My knees hurt, but I was torn. I was torn between wanting to walk away and the love I had for the people I was around, people I competed against and just the lifestyle. I worked really hard on opening up other doors for myself besides skiing, which is making my transition a lot smoother.”

Those opportunities include activism, spreading awareness around climate change for Protect Our Winters. Bowman wants to finish her college degree and teach high school biology and health. She aims to continue public speaking regarding motivational talks and mental health.

Bowman struggled with depression between the Sochi and PyeongChang Olympics. She is equally proud of her second Olympic performance — finishing 11th in South Korea — as her landmark gold medal in Russia. While in PyeongChang, she believed it would likely be her last Olympics.

“I had doubts if I would even make it to PyeongChang, and making it there was one of my huge accomplishments,” Bowman said. “It was such a special event. Even though I only got 11th, I skied my freakin’ heart out. I gave it everything I had.”

Bowman, the daughter of two former professional skiers, took gold in Sochi as the youngest finalist. She landed back-to-back 900s for the first time in her career (by accident after having to improvise her opening run). She did so in front of family that included 78-year-old Lorna Perpall, who wore a T-shirt that read “badass grandma.”

Afterward, Bowman spoke about friend Sarah Burke, the Canadian ski halfpipe pioneer who died after a training accident in 2012.

“It means so much for us to be able to show the world what our sport is,” Bowman said that night in Russia. “She’s here with us.

“I sure hope I, and everyone else, made her proud because we would not be here without her.”

Bowman has her own place in history. No matter how long ski halfpipe is in the Olympics, she will always be the first woman to earn gold.

“I know as our sport gets more solidified into the Olympic Games, it can become pretty national, cutthroat and competitive,” she said. “I would love to see it stay this free-spirited work of art, something beautiful like that.”

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2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

Nathan Chen, Alysa Liu
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Nathan Chen and Alysa Liu headline the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, airing live on NBC and NBCSN and streaming live for NBC Sports Gold subscribers from Thursday through Sunday.

Skaters are competing not only for national titles, but also spots on March’s world championships team.

Chen, undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, looks to become the first man to win four straight national titles since Brian Boitano in 1988. He is a massive favorite, outranking the next-best American this season (Jason Brown) by 80 points in fall international competition.

Liu, who last year became the youngest U.S. champion in history at age 13, added a quadruple Lutz to her triple Axel this season.

She will not be old enough for major senior international competitions until the 2022 Olympic year, making Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell the favorites to comprise the team for the world team for a second straight year.

Ice dance figures to be a battle among training partners Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Hubbell and Donohue won the last two national titles, but the 2015 U.S. champions Chock and Bates outscored them at December’s Grand Prix Final.

Four different pairs won the last four national titles, and all of them are in this week’s field.

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Day Time (ET) Program Network
Thursday 4:30-7 p.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
5-7 p.m. Pairs’ Short NBCSN | STREAM
7:30-11 p.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
9-11 p.m. Women’s Short NBCSN | STREAM
Friday 4:30-6 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
5-6 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBCSN | STREAM
7:25-11 p.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
8-11 p.m. Women’s Free NBC | STREAM
Saturday 1:30-4:30 p.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
2:30-4:30 p.m. Men’s Short NBC | STREAM
6-9 p.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
8-11 p.m. Pairs’ Free/Free Dance NBCSN | STREAM
9:30-11 p.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
Sunday 2:30-6 p.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM
3-6 p.m. Men’s Free NBC | STREAM

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Sam Querrey, top U.S. male tennis player in Olympic qualifying, to skip Tokyo Games

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Sam Querrey, the top American man in Olympic singles tennis qualifying, will skip the Olympics for a second straight time.

“Nope, I’m not going,” he said after upsetting No. 25 Borna Coric 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday. “In fact, I’m playing World Team Tennis the whole season. Even without that, I wasn’t planning on going to the Olympics. I went in 2008. I didn’t go in London and Rio. Felt like it was fun in 2008. I’m not saying it’s not that important. It’s just not a priority for me. In my opinion, I would be fine if tennis wasn’t even in the Olympics. A lot of my friends don’t even know that tennis is in the Olympics. It’s overshadowed by those other sports. I would rather win any Masters series [tournament] over an Olympic gold. So it’s just not on my radar.”

Querrey’s absence moves everybody up in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The new top four more than halfway through qualifying: Taylor Fritz and John Isner tied for first, followed by Reilly Opelka, then Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul tied for fourth.

Johnson is the only man in that group who played in Rio. Isner played in London and skipped Rio.

No more than four singles players per nation qualify for the Olympics via the ATP rankings after the French Open in June.

Querrey did not qualify for the 2012 London Games in singles, but he passed up an automatic spot on the Rio Olympic team (as did many tennis players from around the world, some citing the Zika virus or the lack of world-ranking points). He chose to play a lower-level ATP event in Mexico instead.

He joins other notable male players in passing on Tokyo. Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel that week. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan were not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

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