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Ashley Wagner wins second straight national title

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Despite two uncharacteristic falls during her free skate Saturday night, Ashley Wagner became the first American woman since Michelle Kwan in 2005 to win back-to-back national titles, holding off Gracie Gold, who finished second to earn her spot at the world championships in Ontario this March.

“It’s definitely not the type of win, not the performance I had imagined myself having,” Wagner said of her close victory. “But the fact I was able to repeat as champion with those two performances, that’s something to be proud of.”

Wagner came in with the lead after a solid short program score of 67.57, and threw up a score of 121.27 in the free skate for a total of 188.84, winning her second title by just more than two points.

But Gold, who finished with a total score of 186.57, had both the performance and the move of the night, earning the second highest free skate score in U.S. Championship history by completing a perfect triple-flip, triple-toe combination. She roared back from ninth after a poor short program Thursday.

“I stopped focusing on what was around me, the crowd, the screaming, the other skaters, the pressure, the expectations – I let it all go,” Gold said.” I just pictured myself at my rink in Chicago and even the practices here… I just went out there and skated like I know how to skate.”

Wagner would need to win the next six national titles to match Kwan’s historic haul of eight-in-a-row, but for now she’s happy just to have a shot at a world title and a spot on the Olympic team next February.

Equestrian horses begin boarding airplanes for Rio Olympics

Olympic horse travel
FEI
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The first group of horses set to compete in the Rio Olympic equestrian events boarded a Boeing 777-F and departed from London’s Stansted Airport on Friday.

In all, 34 horses from 10 nations were part of the first of nine shipments delivering more than 200 horses to Rio. That’s nearly 20 tons of horses on Friday’s shipment alone.

Horses will also depart from Liege, Belgium, and Miami ahead of the Olympic competition.

More information on horse travel to Rio is available here from the International Equestrian Federation.

MORE: Complete U.S. Olympic team roster

Olympic horse travel

Entire Russian weightlifting team banned from Olympics

Weightlifting
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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The International Weightlifting Federation has banned the Russian federation and all its weightlifters from the Rio Olympics.

The IWF said Friday the multiple cases of doping by Russian weightlifters have “seriously damaged” the integrity of the sport. The eight Russian Olympic spots have been offered to other countries.

The IWF said the doping results produced by Russian weightlifters are “extremely shocking and disappointing.”

Russia, China, North Korea and Kazakhstan are the world’s top four weightlifting nations.

MORE: U.S. Olympic weightlifting team complete