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Johnny Weir previews figure skating season on new ‘Chasing Gold’ episode

Johnny Weir sits down with Mike Tirico to discuss the 2022-2023 figure skating season, including an update on Olympian Kamila Valieva, Beijing gold medalist Nathan Chen and newcomers to watch.

The season after the Olympics always brings changes in figure skating, but this may be unprecedented in the professional era.

The Grand Prix Series, the sport’s top-level circuit, opens next week with Skate America and an abundance of new faces to highlight.

NBC Sports analyst Johnny Weir set the stage in an interview for “Chasing Gold,” NBC Sports’ monthly Olympic and Paralympic show. The episode debuts Sunday at 12 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app and is available on Peacock starting Monday.

None of the reigning Olympic gold medalists are currently competing.

Nathan Chen is on an indefinite, perhaps permanent, break while he resumes classes at Yale. French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are sitting out at least this entire season. China’s pairs champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong did not enter any Grand Prix event. Anna Shcherbakova, the women’s gold medalist, is from Russia, a nation banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine.

Enter Ilia Malinin, the 17-year-old world junior champion from Virginia. Malinin, the son of Uzbek Olympic skaters, last month became the first person to land a quadruple Axel in competition. The Axel is the hardest jump because it is the only one with a forward takeoff, adding an extra half-revolution. All of the other quad jumps had previously been done.

“It is just out of this world,” Weir said of Malinin’s new jump. “I never thought in my lifetime I’d see somebody do a quad Axel.”

Malinin will look to follow the same blueprint as Chen, building on his arsenal of quads with artistry leading up to the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.

Malinin headlines the Skate America men’s field. The women’s field also includes the reigning world junior champion: 15-year-old Isabeau Levito of New Jersey.

Levito was third at the U.S. Championships in January but too young for the Olympics. This is her senior international debut season.

“She skates as light as a hummingbird,” Weir said. “It’s almost like she’s whispering when she performs, but her jumps are so strong.”

In April, Levito became the first U.S. woman to win a junior world title in 14 years. The last U.S. woman to win a senior world title was Kimmie Meissner in 2006.

“It really has been a moment [since] we’ve seen an American woman that can challenge the rest of the world,” Weir said, “and I think [Levito] can do it.”

The U.S. also boasts top returning teams in pairs (world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier) and ice dance (world bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates), who are also entered in Skate America.

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