This weekend on the Road to PyeongChang: Winter Olympic sports kick into high gear
Figure skating: Grand Prix series moves to NHK Trophy in Japan
Now that figure skating’s Grand Prix is halfway through the series, the fourth stop on the circuit moves to Japan. The reigning world champions in every discipline are slated to compete in Osaka, the host of NHK Trophy. A full preview is here.
Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning world and Olympic champion, fell during Thursday’s practice session and subsequently withdrew from the men’s event. Because of this, he’ll be out of the Grand Prix Final in December as well. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada, who took silver behind Hanyu at the Sochi Olympics, withdrew last week and will not compete in Osaka.
The U.S.’ Jason Brown can clinch a spot in the exclusive Grand Prix Final this weekend, and teammate Adam Rippon returns to competition after sitting out the second half of last season with a broken foot. After Friday’s short program, Brown is in third place and Rippon is sitting in fourth behind Russia’s Sergei Voronov in first and Israel’s Alexei Bychenko in second.
Russia’s Yevgenia Medvedeva, undefeated in individual competition since November 2015, headlines the ladies field. Sochi bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy is also in the field. Japan’s own Satoko Miyahara, competes for the first time in nearly a year; she was sidelined with a fractured hip. The U.S. team features 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu and 2017 U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.
After Friday’s short program, Medvedeva leads both Kostner and Tsurskaya, who are second and third, respectively. Nagasu is currently fifth and Bell is ninth.
Competing just one week after their victory at the Grand Prix Cup of China, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China are back again in the pairs field. This time, they face Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the 2014 Olympic silver medalists. The lone U.S. pair is married couple Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim.
Sui and Han lead the pairs field after Friday’s short program, followed by Stolbova and Klimov. Another Russian pair, Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov, are in third. The Knierims are in fourth.
The ice dance field is led by three-time Olympic medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Already this season, they’ve traded the highest scores ever recorded in ice dance with French training partners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (not competing this weekend). The Canadians face U.S. duo Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who they also train with.
Schedule (all times Eastern):
Friday, Nov. 10:
- Pairs short program: 12:30 a.m.
- Ladies short program: 2 a.m.
- Men’s short program: 5 a.m.
- Ice dance short dance: 11 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 11:
- Pairs free skate: 12:30 a.m.
- Ladies free skate: 3 a.m.
- Men’s free skate: 5:30 a.m.
- Ice dance free dance: 10 p.m.
Mikaela Shiffrin races first slalom of Olympic season
2014 Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin will compete in her signature discipline for the first time this season in Levi, Finland on Saturday at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch Shiffrin's race on Saturday here. Shiffrin has finished on the podium during three of her four slalom races in Levi, including victories in 2013 and 2016. This will be the second race of the 2017-18 World Cup season for Shiffrin, who finished fifth in a giant slalom on Oct. 28.
The men’s slalom will take place on Sunday at 7 a.m. ET on the Olympic Channel. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who won the race in 2016, has indicated he would race on Sunday, despite recovering from a broken ankle in pre-season training.
Curling: U.S. Olympic Team Trials
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for curling, which will determine the men’s and women’s teams that will represent the U.S. at the 2018 PyeongChangs, begin this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. Competition begins on Saturday with the first of five days of round-robin matches. Five men’s teams and three women’s teams are competing; each men’s team will play every other men’s team twice, while each women’s team will play every other women’s team three times.
The top-seeded teams are the men’s rink skipped by John Shuster, already a three-time Olympian and an Olympic bronze medalist, and the women’s team skipped by Nina Roth, who led her squad to a fifth-place finish at the 2017 World Championships.
After the round-robin stage concludes on Wednesday, Nov. 15, the playoffs will begin on Thursday, Nov. 16. All competition sessions can be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Short Track: Shanghai World Cup
Short track’s World Cup season continues this weekend with the third of four competitions, held in Shanghai, China and running from Thursday to Sunday. The two 2017 overall world champions, Great Britain’s Elise Christie and South Korea’s Seo Yi-Ra, will be competing, as well as eight-time Olympic medalist Viktor Ahn of Russia. The biggest names on the 12-person U.S. team are J.R. Celski and Katherine Reutter-Adamek, both of which won Olympic medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Celski also won a relay silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Speed skating: Heerenveen World Cup
The speed skating season kicks off this weekend with the first of four World Cup competitions to be held this fall. These events, which will take place in November and December 2017, will help determine how many quota spots each country earns for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Running from Friday to Sunday, the first World Cup is held in the speed skating hotbed of Heerenveen, Netherlands.
The U.S. squad will be led by four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis and mass start world champion Joey Mantia, as well as two world record holders on the women’s side: Heather Bergsma, the world’s fastest in the 1500m, and Brittany Bowe, current holder of the 1000m record. Bergsma currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband, Olympic speed skating champion Jorrit Bergsma, who will be competing for the Dutch in Heerenveen. Bowe is returning to the World Cup circuit after missing most of last season due a concussion.
Snowboard big air: Season kicks off in Milan
This weekend will feature the first snowboard big air contest of the season. With the event making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, Saturday's World Cup stop in Milan could provide an early glimpse of what to expect, particularly on the women's side.
Among the headliners in the women's field is Anna Gasser. The 26-year-old Austrian is coming off a monster season in which she landed on the podium at nearly every single contest she entered. After winning World Snowboard Tour titles in both big air and slopestyle last season, she's the early favorite in both disciplines this year. But in her first test of the new season, some of her toughest competition will likely come from up-and-coming American rider Julia Marino. It appears that double corks will be the key to victory this year, so keep an eye on this contest to see who has added doubles —or even just a new variation of the double cork — to their bag of tricks since last season.
On the men's side, many of the heavy hitters are sitting this contest out. That could provide an opportunity for some new faces to reach the podium. Kyle Mack, Red Gerard, Chris Corning and Ryan Stassel are among the top American entrants in the field.
The finals kick off at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it live on the Olympic Channel, or stream it live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
What you need to know for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games
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