Max Aaron

Max Aaron wins U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

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U.S. champion Max Aaron began his season with a win, but he has plenty of work ahead of him.

Aaron, 21, posted a total score of 239.21 to take the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City on Friday night. But his planned free skate with three quadruple jumps didn’t go smoothly.

Aaron popped his first into a double toe loop, put his hand down on a quad salchow and spun out of a landing on another quad salchow.

Still, it was easily enough to beat three other Americans in the absence of Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who pulled out of the event Monday.

Stephen Carriere (225.54), Josh Farris (206.56) and Grant Hochstein (191.91) followed Aaron in the standings (full results below). None landed a clean quad. Carriere, who was 10th at nationals, fell on a quad toe loop. Farris, the world junior champion, sat down a triple axel.

Gold, Davis/White lead after short programs

Aaron goes into the Olympic season as one of the top contenders to make the two-man Olympic team at nationals in Boston in January.

Lysacek hasn’t competed since the 2010 Olympics. U.S. silver and bronze medalists Ross Miner and Jeremy Abbott also did not compete in Salt Lake City.

Next up is Skate America in Detroit from Oct. 18-20. Aaron, Lysacek and 2012 U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon are the Americans entered there.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch won the pairs competition for the second straight year.

They extended a six-point lead from Thursday’s short program to win by 13 points over 2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin. Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were fourth at the World Championships in March.

2013 U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir fell from second after the short program into fourth behind another American pair, Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea.

It’s early, but Denney and Coughlin got an early boost going into the Olympic season. Two U.S. pairs teams will qualify for the Olympics at nationals in January.

Denney and Coughlin, Castelli and Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who were last Friday, are the U.S. teams entered in Skate America.

Men
1. Max Aaron (USA) 239.21
2. Stephen Carriere (USA) 225.54
3. Josh Farris (USA) 206.56
4. Grant Hochstein (USA) 191.91
5. Christopher Caluza (PHI) 185.33
6. Michael Christian Martinez (PHI) 183.04
7. Andrei Rogozine (CAN) 168.92
8. Stanislav Samohin (ISR) 163.71
9. Oleksii Bychenko (ISR) 162.71
10. Charles Pao (TPE) 95.18

Pairs
1. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) 201.30
2. Denney/Coughlin (USA) 188.47
3. Kayne/O’Shea (USA) 167.27
4. Castelli/Shnapir (USA) 165.91
5. Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN) 155.00
6. Davidovich/Krasnapolsky (ISR) 133.07
7. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 130.20

U.S. women’s figure skater has mime coach

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban