- Associated Press - Saturday, January 6, 2018

FIGURE SKATING

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Rising star Bradie Tennell’s near-perfect free skate earned her a national title and almost certainly a spot on the U.S. team for next month’s Olympics.

Tennell was spotless in the short program two days ago, then as the final skater in the long program she didn’t miss a trick under tremendous pressure. Her top competitors, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen, already had put down superb routines.

Nagasu capped a sensationally sweet comeback with a flowing performance to finish second, virtually assuring a spot in next month’s Olympics - a berth she was denied four years ago by the selection committee.

Chen, the defending champion, was third.

Ashley Wagner called out judges her scores in the free skate, which put in jeopardy her chances of returning to the Olympics. Wagner scored a 130.85 in her strongest event for 196.19, finishing fourth.

“I’m furious, I am absolutely furious,” Wagner said. “I know when I go and I lay it down and I absolutely left one jump on the table, but for me to put out two programs that I did at this competition as solid as I skated and to get those scores, I am furious, and I think deservedly so.”

SPEED SKATING

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Erin Jackson surprised herself and almost everyone else at the U.S. speedskating trials, becoming a first-time Olympian after just four months on ice.

Coming from the world of inline skating, Jackson qualified in the 500 meters by finishing third behind veterans Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma.

Bowe had the fastest time over two heats Friday night. She was quicker in her first run around the big oval, clocking 37.95 seconds. Her second run was 38.18. Bergsma also was quicker in her first heat at 38.24. Her second trip was 38.42.

Jackson was just the opposite. The 25-year-old skater from Ocala, Florida, went 39.22 in her first heat. She was even better in her second run, going 39.04.

“I really wasn’t expecting any of this, just coming in as a newbie, just trying to do the best I can,” she said, smiling. “I still don’t even know.”

PRO FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - The NFL is sending the remaining portion of a $30 million investment in neurological research to government-funded entities despite ending the original agreement for the project.

The league said it would send $7.7 million each to the Department of Defense and a group that studies traumatic brain injuries. Another $2.3 million will go to the National Institute for Aging.

An agreement to issue the funds through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health ended in August, and the NFL chose the final dispersals following discussions with experts on the most pressing scientific research needs.

Each of the research projects receives substantial federal funding. Through its involvement, the NFL hopes to learn more about concussions and other brain injuries.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders are set to bring Jon Gruden back for a second stint as coach.

A person with knowledge of the team’s plans said the Raiders are planning a news conference Tuesday to announce that Gruden is leaving the broadcast booth to come back to coaching. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has made no formal announcement.

The Raiders fired Jack Del Rio following a disappointing six-win season and talk immediately turned to Gruden. Gruden spent four years as coach for the Raiders before being dealt to Tampa Bay, where he beat Oakland in the Super Bowl following his first season in 2002. Gruden has been out of coaching for nine years.

The news conference was first reported by the Raiders Snake Pit website.

PRO BASKETBALL

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Hall of Famer Julius Erving fell ill at the Philadelphia 76ers’ game and was taken to a hospital.

There was no immediate update on his condition.

“Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Erving fell ill at tonight’s game and was taken to a local hospital, where he is currently being evaluated. He is expected to be released after the evaluation,” said a statement on behalf of Erving’s management team and the Sixers.

Erving, 67, attended the game and rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tipoff. The dunker more commonly known as “Dr. J” was honored by the team to mark 35 years since he threw down his famous cradle dunk against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Erving led the Sixers to their last NBA championship in 1983 and was 1981 NBA MVP.

SPORTS ANALYTICS

BOSTON (AP) - Former President Barack Obama will speak at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Feb. 23, though it’s unclear what he plans to discuss.

The conference announced on Twitter that Obama, an avid sports fan, will make an appearance.

MIT has held the conference annually since 2007, hosting industry professionals to discuss the role of analytics in sports. This year, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman are scheduled to speak, as are retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver and Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Obama routinely filled out NCAA Tournament brackets on ESPN during his presidency, and his White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, once said Obama would consider being part of the ownership group for an NBA franchise.


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