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Digest: Figure skater Liu added to US Olympic team

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Overcoming obstacles, US figure skaters ready for Beijing

Alysa Liu skates in the ladies short program event during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)

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Alysia Liu joined U.S. champion Mariah Bell and runner-up Karen Chen on the American figure skating team for the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, even though she was forced to withdraw from nationals in Nashville, Tenn., following a positive COVID-19 test.

The 16-year-old Liu was in third place after her short program when she took a regularly scheduled test and it came back positive. She immediately told U.S. Figure Skating she would petition for a spot on the Olympic team, and the selection committee chose Liu based on her overall body of work.

Liu, a two-time national champion, said she’s “feeling well physically and mentally” and has been vaccinated.

Bell and Chen were introduced to the crowd at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday during a break in the men’s competition, while Liu was shown smiling and waving to fans on a large video screen.

U.S. Figure Skating has a similar situation in selecting the two pairs teams for Beijing, because the favored duo of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier withdrew before nationals when he tested positive for COVID-19. Knierim and Frazier likewise petitioned for a spot on the Olympic team and are expected to be chosen.

Nathan Chen set a short program record in the men’s competition Saturday. His 115.39 points beat the nationals mark of 114.13 he set in 2020. Vincent Zhou was second and Ilia Malinin, 17, jumped his way to third place ahead of veteran Jason Brown. The three men headed to Beijing will be announced after their free skate Sunday.

Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc took the pairs title — and almost certainly one of the two spots at next month’s Olympics. The other spot is expected to go to Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who were forced to withdraw when he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their third ice dance title. (AP)

Bowe, Mantia win 1,500 speedskating titles: Brittany Bowe won the women’s 1,500 meters and Joey Mantia took the men’s event in track-record time at the U.S. speedskating trials in Milwaukee to put the veterans on their third Olympic team.

Bowe finished in 1 minute, 50.32 seconds to claim her third individual event for Beijing at the Pettit National Ice Center, where fans were banned because of surging COVID-19 cases.

Mantia won in 1:44.01, with Emery Lehman second in 1:45.10 to qualify for his third Olympics.

Mantia earlier finished second in the 1,000. (AP)

North Dakota State wins FCS title: Hunter Luepke ran for three touchdowns in the first half and North Dakota State won its ninth FCS national championship in 11 seasons with a 38-10 win over Montana State on Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

The Bison (14-1) have never lost when making the trip from Fargo to Frisco for the final Football Championship Subdivision game, going 9-0 since the 2011 season at the MLS soccer stadium north of downtown Dallas.

The Bobcats struggled after losing standout freshman quarterback Tommy Mellott to an ankle injury on the game’s opening drive.

Luepke, a 236-pound junior fullback who finished with 82 yards rushing, took a direct snap for a 6-yard TD just before halftime that put NDSU up 28-0.

He opened the scoring with a powerful 8-yard run, then had an 11-yard TD before Kobe Johnson broke free for a 76-yard sprint to the end zone.

Montana State (12-3) was in its first title game since 1984, when they won the championship then referred to as NCAA Division I-AA. The eighth-seeded Bobcats had won each of their first three playoff games by at least two touchdowns after Mellott took over as the starting quarterback. (AP)

Shiffrin second in giant slalom standings: Swedish skier Sara Hector won Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom race in Slovenia and overtook Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin on top of the season standings.

Hector posted the fastest time in both runs on a demanding course mainly used on the men’s World Cup. She extended her narrow first-run lead to a huge .96 seconds over the runner-up, former French world champion Tessa Worley.

Shiffrin improved from 14th after the opening run to seventh, 2.05 seconds behind Hector, who now leads the American by 46 points in the GS season standings. (AP)

Baffert horse wins Santa Ynez Stakes: Under the Stars won the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes by three-quarters of a length Saturday at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.

Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Flavien Prat, Under the Stars ran seven furlongs in 1:22.51.

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite in a field of six 3-year-old fillies, Under the Stars paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.20.

Under the Stars failed to earn any qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks in May because of Baffert’s ban imposed by Churchill Downs. (AP)

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