U.S. figure skating future in good hands


SKATING, HOCKEY

Wire Reports



Nathan Chen performs in the men's free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Detroit. Chen won the event. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Nathan Chen performs in the men's free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Detroit. Chen won the event. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


Alysa Liu performs her women's free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Detroit. Liu won the title. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


Can Nathan Chen, Alysa Liu lead an American skating rebound?

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

Monday, January 28

DETROIT (AP) — The present and future of American figure skating were on display at last week’s national championships.

Nathan Chen and Alysa Liu were captivating, but it remains to be seen how much they can help the U.S. rebound on the international stage.

Chen, the reigning world champion, is rolling right along after winning a third straight title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. His performance was expected, but the biggest new star to emerge at this competition was the 13-year-old Liu, who became the youngest person to win an individual championship in the event’s history.

“She’s the hope,” said Tara Lipinski, who won the national title at age 14 in 1997 and was supplanted by Liu as the youngest women’s champion. “Obviously, it’s been many years since there’s been a U.S. lady on an Olympic podium.”

The last time an American won an Olympic medal in women’s figure skating was in 2006, when Sasha Cohen took silver. The U.S. won bronze in the team competition at each of the past two Olympics, but the Americans came up empty in the men’s and women’s individual events in both Pyeongchang and Sochi.

In Chen, the Americans already have a high-flying star. He won the Olympic free skate last year with an unprecedented six quad jumps, and while a poor short program cost him a medal, he has three straight national titles and last year’s world title to his credit at age 19.

“He’s pushing the sport in ways that, growing up in the sport, I could have only dreamed,” said Jason Brown, who finished third over the weekend. “It’s really impressive, and he definitely pushes me to push every other boundary that I can.”

Chen defeated Vincent Zhou by over 58 points Sunday, and right now, the main question seems to be how well Chen can balance his skating with his studies at Yale. So far, so good, it seems.

“I really don’t mind the training atmosphere that I’m in. I’m really lucky and really honored to have the opportunity to be able to skate at Yale,” he said. “Some competitions have been really good, some competitions have not necessarily been so good under these circumstances, but ultimately, I feel like I’m improving competition to competition.”

Chen is skipping the Four Continents Championships in California next month but can try to defend his world title in Japan in March.

Liu, meanwhile, faces a more uncertain international future. After Lipinski won at nationals in ‘97, she took gold at the Nagano Olympics the following year. Liu’s national title came three years before the next Olympics, and under the current age restriction, she’s not eligible to compete at worlds until 2022.

That may be frustrating for those who want to see her compete on the biggest stage, but it could also stave off the pressure for a little while.

“There are some obvious places where I can be better and (I will keep) working on those,” she said. “Focusing on myself is what works for me. Just focusing on being the best version and best skater that I can be.”

Liu landed a rare triple axel in her short program and two more in the free skate, so it’s only natural to view her as someone who can help the American women start closing the gap.

“There’s other countries that are producing talent that are 12- and 13-year-olds, doing quads and multiple quad jumps, and it’s impossible for the U.S. ladies to technically compete with that. They’re lagging so far behind,” said Lipinski, now a commentator with NBC. “Now she’s changing this, and I think she is setting the tone and is going to push the next generation of U.S. skaters.”

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Liu takes women’s title at nationals at age 13

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

Saturday, January 26

DETROIT (AP) — Alysa Liu was already a phenom. Now she’s a national champion at age 13.

Liu stole the show Friday night, breezing through a free skate that included two triple axels and dethroning 2018 winner Bradie Tennell at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Liu became the youngest winner of an individual title at this event, and after her score was posted, she put her hands over her face, overcome with emotion .

“I was just happy that I beat my personal record, and I did a clean long program,” Liu said.

Liu had already landed a triple axel in the short program Thursday, and she was in second place behind Tennell entering Friday. Tennell fell during her long program, and Liu, skating immediately after, seized the opportunity. Her first triple axel was in combination with a double toe loop. Then she landed another triple axel, and by the time she finished her performance — set to “Witches of Eastwick” by John Williams — she was beaming.

Tara Lipinski was the youngest women’s champion at nationals after winning at age 14 in 1997, and Scott Allen also was 14 when he won in 1964. Now a commentator with NBC, Lipinski was there Friday when her record fell.

“Records are made to be broken,” Lipinski said afterward. “It is quite an honor that she is the one to do it. What a phenomenal talent.”

Earlier Friday, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue took a step toward defending their ice dancing title, finishing atop the standings after the rhythm dance. Hubbell and Donohue will compete for their second straight national championship in the free dance Saturday.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates were second after the rhythm dance, followed by Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker.

The ice dancing competition was one of the most anticipated events of the week, in part because the top teams have plenty of ties to Michigan. Hubbell was born in Michigan, and she and Donohue used to train there. Chock and Bates are from Michigan as well.

Those two teams now train in Montreal under the same coaches — with Hawayek and Baker there as well.

“We’re pretty lucky that we get to train with the best in the world,” Donohue said. “We’re pushing each other. … We’ve got such a unique, incredible atmosphere where we all love each other, we all want to beat each other.”

The women’s competition was without several big names, with Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasu and Gracie Gold all missing it for various reasons. Now Liu looks like she could provide a boost for American figure skating. The U.S. hasn’t won an Olympic medal in women’s figure skating since 2006.

“To handle the pressure like she did, and to push the technical envelope as far as she’s pushing it, at such a young age, is truly mind blowing,” Lipinski said. “I think she’s the future of U.S. ladies’ figure skating.”

The U.S. nationals are being held in Detroit for the first time in 25 years. The 1994 event is best remembered for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan after a practice, but there was a 13-year-old who shined that year too — Michelle Kwan, who finished second.

The 4-foot, 7-inch Liu had already turned heads in August, when she became the youngest woman to land a triple axel in international competition. On Friday, she showed poise and ability on a big stage, although international stardom may have to wait a bit. Under the current age restriction, she’s not even eligible to compete at worlds until 2022.

“I’m not too worried about that part,” Liu said. “Because I get more time to work on my jumps, skating skills, spins, and just trying to learn more.”

Liu received a score of 217.51. Tennell finished second at 213.59, and Mariah Bell was third. Bell was the only skater left after Liu, and she fell during her routine.

Tennell stepped out of a triple loop in a combination early in her program, and she fell attempting a triple lutz.

“Obviously, it wasn’t my best skate, and I’m disappointed,” Tennell said. “There’s always something to be learned from skates like this, so I’m excited to get back home and work harder than ever to fix what I made mistakes on.”

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Chen wins third straight national title with ease

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

Monday, January 28

DETROIT (AP) — Nathan Chen was skating up to collect his medal — gold, of course — when he tripped on the small carpet in front of the podium and nearly fell.

So maybe he’s not perfect.

Until then, there was hardly any hint of a misstep for Chen, who lived up to his own impressive standard by winning his third straight title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The reigning world champion, Chen was biggest star at this competition coming in, and he won the final event Sunday with a score of 342.22 — over 58 points more than runner-up Vincent Zhou. Jason Brown was third.

“The score definitely took me by surprise,” Chen said. “It was a lot bigger than I was expecting, but ultimately scores are scores. I’m happy with what I did and hopefully I can continue to do that in other competitions.”

Chen’s free skate alone earned 228.80 points, which was higher than the total score for 14 of the 20 skaters.

“Honestly, it’s incredible,” said Brown, who skated immediately before Chen. “I feel so lucky that Nathan is a teammate. That is how I look at him. Obviously, we compete against each other at nationals, but every time we’re on the international stage, we are teammates, and I admire him, and it’s unbelievable.”

The 19-year-old Chen landed four quad jumps in his routine, one of which was in combination. When he wasn’t impressing with his jumping ability, he kept the crowd captivated with his easy, elegant skating to “Land of All” by Woodkid.

Chen began the program with a soaring quad lutz.

“I thought that would be a smart choice, just to put it as the first jump, get that out of the gate, not have to worry about it after,” he said. “I really tried to narrow in on the things that I know make the jump work.”

Next up was a quad flip and a quad toe loop. Those three jumps earned Chen over 47 points, and he hadn’t even started his combinations.

At the Olympics last year, Chen became the first man to land six quadruple jumps in program — that wasn’t enough for a medal, but he did win the free skate. He later won the world title, and now he seems as strong as ever despite balancing training with his studies at Yale.

“I’m just so thankful that Yale has given me the ice time for me to continue pursuing my dreams outside of school,” he said. “I definitely learned a lot more about how to handle my schedule last semester. … It’s just reassuring, knowing that I can handle the two.”

Zhou’s program included four quads as well, but one was downgraded when he fell, and two others were under-rotated. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, improved from a sixth-place showing at nationals last year, and he appears to be on an upswing after relocating to Toronto to train under Brian Orser.

Zhou made the podium for a third straight year at nationals, although Chen was blocking his path to victory each time.

“Obviously, I’m happy with the results, but there’s still so much room for improvement, and that gives me hope for the future,” Zhou said. “To achieve what I did here this week and still have … opportunity for growth, is a really great thing. Looking ahead to, hopefully, Four Continents and worlds, I know that I can do even better.”

It’s hard to see how much better Chen could perform, although his costume needed a bit of work — his shirt started to slide up on some of his spins.

NOTES: U.S. Figure Skating announced that Chen, Zhou and Brown have been selected for the world championships in March. Pairs national champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were selected as well, along with the top three ice dancing teams from Saturday night’s competition: Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell, who finished second and third in Friday’s women’s competition behind 13-year-old Alysa Liu, were also picked for worlds.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Crosby, Lundqvist lead Metropolitan to All-Star win

By JOSH DUBOW

AP Sports Writer

Sunday, January 27

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Sidney Crosby now has one more reason to have good memories of the Shark Tank.

Crosby had two goals and three assists to win the All-Star MVP, and Henrik Lundqvist pitched a first-half shutout to lead the Metropolitan Division to a 10-5 victory over the Central Division in the championship round of the NHL All-Star game Saturday night.

Crosby finished the night with four goals and four assists in two games on the same ice where he won the Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup three years ago for Pittsburgh.

“I have some great memories here for sure,” he said. “It’s always been a tough place to play. Obviously, when you win in a rink and have those memories, it’s something you think about every time you go there. Being in that dressing room, it’s automatic to bring you back to some of those moments.”

The memories aren’t nearly as sweet for the Sharks fans, who booed Crosby when he won the award, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Joe Sakic and Jean Beliveau as the only players to win the Conn Smyth, the Hart Trophy and All-Star MVP.

“It’s cool,” Crosby said. “You play and you watch as a kid growing up and you see that presentation so it’s pretty cool. I had a lot of fun today.”

Lundqvist stopped 11 of 13 shots in his two games to give the Metropolitan Division its second title in four years of the three-on-three All-Star format and the $1 million prize shared by the winners of the four-team divisional tournament.

Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders added two goals and three assists in the final game.

Mikko Rantanen had two goals and Colorado teammate Gabriel Landeskog added one for the Central. Landeskog finished with four goals and three assists, while Rantanen had four goals and two assists.

“There’s more pace obviously when it’s the final and there’s a million dollars on the line. A lot of guy were going a little bit harder but it’s good for the fans,” Rantanen said. “Just too bad that we were not that ready to play.”

Crosby assisted on Barzal’s goal against Devan Dubnyk just 22 seconds into the championship game and then made it 5-0 in the closing seconds of the first half off a pass from Barzal. Crosby also assisted on Pittsburgh teammate Kris Letang’s goal in the first half and then helped seal the game with a goal in the second half that made it 6-2.

Lundqvist made big saves against Landeskog and Claude Giroux in the period one night after winning the save streak competition in the skills challenge.

“It was good defense, good structure,” Lundqvist said. “That helps, especially three on three. Honestly, I thought we had pretty good structure, so much skill up front, so many goals. You don’t get surprised, you get impressed.”

The first time the All-Star game came to San Jose in 1997, hometown favorite Owen Nolan capped the night by calling his shot and pointing to the spot where he completed a hat trick that delighted the Shark Tank.

Sharks fans didn’t have as much to cheer for in the return, even though their three All-Stars started the night on the ice together for the Pacific. The Central blitzed the Pacific early for its first win in four years in this format, scoring seven goals on nine shots against John Gibson in the first half of the period in a 10-4 victory.

Gibson, who plays for the rival Anaheim Ducks, drew derisive chants from the fans who later called for Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury to take over.

“Anytime you play it’s a rivalry and the fans take it personally. That’s what makes it fun,” Gibson said. “You’re still at All-Star game and you’re out there with some of the best players in the league. Stuff’s going to happen.”

Landeskog had a hat trick and an assist and Roman Josi had three assists and a goal for the Central.

Pekka Rinne and Dubnyk combined to stop 23 of 27 shots with Dubnyk providing one of the biggest highlights with a glove save that robbed Connor McDavid on a breakaway.

The Metropolitan Division won the second semifinal 7-4 thanks to a tiebreaking goal by Letang with 3:38 to play. Sebastian Aho added an insurance goal seconds after Braden Holtby stopped John Tavares in close.

NOTES: The NHL honored four women’s hockey players who participated in All-Star weekend, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker of the United States, and Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast of Canada. The four women got a standing ovation and a $25,000 donation in their name to a hockey charity of their choice. Coyne Schofield was the first woman to compete in the skills competition on Friday night, finishing seventh in the fastest skater competition.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Bettman: NHL owners not ‘looking for a fight’ in CBA talks

By JOSH DUBOW

AP Sports Writer

Friday, January 25

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday the owners aren’t “looking for a fight” when it comes to collective bargaining negotiations with the players.

The current CBA runs until 2022, but the league and players each have the option this September to terminate it effective Sept. 15, 2020. Bettman said at a news conference at All-Star weekend that the owners are mostly satisfied with the last two negotiations that instituted a salary cap and then provided an even split of hockey-related revenues between players and owners.

“There’s no question that the league is healthier now dramatically,” Bettman said. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t have a system that corrected some of the ills in the past. We have stability, we have competitive balance and the game is able to grow. That’s good for everyone involved with the game.”

NHLPA special assistant to the executive director Mathieu Schneider agreed that the tenor of discussions has improved in a sport that has had one strike and three lockouts since 1992, but that players want to recoup some of the losses they suffered in the last two negotiations, including an end to the escrow payments that ensure the 50-50 split in revenues.

However, Schneider said he didn’t agree that the players are in control of whether there will be another work stoppage.

“There’s no question that the players have given back billions of dollars over the course of the past two negotiations,” Schneider said. “That’s no secret. I don’t think I’d characterize it as the ball’s in the players’ hands.”

Both sides have had productive talks already and were able to reach an agreement on player and puck tracking , which Bettman said bodes well for more difficult negotiations ahead.

Schneider said the tension that was present at the start of the last talks that led to a lockout that wiped out 510 games is in in the past and both sides agree the relationship between players and owners is stronger than ever.

“Hopefully, we’re at a place where labor peace can be more important than anything else we need to accomplish,” Bettman said. “Because I think the opportunities in front of us are even greater than what’s been behind us.”

Another potential sticking point is international play. Players were upset the league didn’t allow them to participate in the 2018 Olympics and want assurances that they can play in the 2022 games in Beijing.

The sides agreed not to stage the World Cup of Hockey in 2020 because of the uncertainty of the labor agreement but hope to hammer out a plan for international play in the current CBA negotiations. Schneider said the players would be open to playing the World Cup in February 2021 during a break in the season, but Bettman downplayed that possibility.

“I think we’d all like to develop that long-term calendar,” Schneider said. “For whatever reason, we can sit here and point fingers at each other, it hasn’t gotten done.”

In other news, Bettman said next season will open with a game in Prague and there will also be regular-season games in Stockholm, as well as exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland. The league also is working on going back to China for preseason games.

The league announced two outdoor games for next season with the Dallas Stars hosting Nashville in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl and Colorado playing Los Angeles at the Air Force Academy later in the season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Nathan Chen performs in the men’s free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Detroit. Chen won the event. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122218353-fac7c6e0784046f297d3fde68f0e53d0.jpgNathan Chen performs in the men’s free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Detroit. Chen won the event. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Alysa Liu performs her women’s free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Detroit. Liu won the title. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122218353-3177e56062a546fa8ff3891a3ec82228.jpgAlysa Liu performs her women’s free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Detroit. Liu won the title. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
SKATING, HOCKEY

Wire Reports