By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Like most young skaters, Brandon Frazier had developed a carefully crafted picture in his mind of what it would be like to learn he finally realized his Olympic dreams.
Reality looked a whole lot different.
There was no hugging with family members. No tearful celebration with friends. Only a Facetime call with his pairs partner, Alexa Knierim, while Frazier waited for the negative COVID-19 tests that would finally free him from his hotel quarantine.
“I never imagined it like it actually went down last night,” Frazier said Sunday, four days after his positive test forced the pair to withdraw from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and petition for a spot at the Beijing Games.
“But that’s when I knew it meant the absolute world to me,” Frazier said, “because it meant just as much to me.”
Newly minted U.S. champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc will join Knierim and Frazier in Beijing.
Gain-Gribble said she learned the news after finishing “a huge pizza and cookie dough, so I was feeling pretty good.” LeDuc, the first non-binary Olympic athlete, got the call just as he was arriving to his family’s Airbnb rental.
As for Frazier, sitting alone in his hotel room?
“I hugged the crap out of that pillow,” he said with a Cheshire cat-like grin.
There was no drama in the three dance teams picked for Beijing: Madison Chock and Evan Bates will carry the momentum of a record-setting win at nationals to their third Olympics; runners-up Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue will try to improve on their fourth-place finish at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang; and Kaitlin Hawayak and Jen-Luc Baker give the Americans a third team that could stand on the podium next month.
Their selection for the Olympic team also was confirmed Sunday, shortly before the men’s free skate at nationals.
“It’s the honor of a lifetime. It’s the greatest honor we can achieve in our sport,” said Bates, who will make his fourth Olympic trip after going in 2010 with former partner Emily Samuelson. “We’re fortunate to go back for the third time, or fourth time, but it never gets old. It’s always special each time.”
All three American teams, who are close friends as much as rivals and training partners, work under the watchful eyes of Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer at the Gadbois Centre in Montreal.
Also training there are 2018 Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the French ice dancers who had the highest scorer of the Grand Prix season and likely their biggest competition in Beijing.
The women’s team of U.S. champion Mariah Bell, silver medalist Karen Chen, and Alysa Liu was announced Saturday, while Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou are expected to lead the three men chosen for Beijing later Sunday.
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