Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton

Steve Holcomb, Elana Meyers win U.S. bobsled selection races

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Olympic champion Steve Holcomb and Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers began their Olympic seasons successfully, winning the first two-man U.S. bobsled selection races Saturday.

Holcomb, with Steve Langton, took the men’s event with a two-run time of 1 minute, 54.28 seconds. Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson were second (1:55.23), followed by Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley (1:55.52).

Holcomb has a bye onto the national team based on last season’s results but competed anyway.

“I made a mistake the first time I had a bye by taking it too lightly and just going through the motions,” Holcomb said, according to a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) release.  “I didn’t feel ready for the competitive season because we didn’t rehearse race day.  Today we did everything just like a race.  It’s good practice since there isn’t any pressure to win.”

Holcomb and Langton were the 2012 world champions in the two-man. Butner and Cunningham were the second- and third-best U.S. pilots in the World Cup two-man standings last season and are favored to join Holcomb as Olympic team pilots.

Meyers, with Aja Evans, captured the women’s races in 1:57.21. Jamie Greubel and Katie Eberling followed in 1:57.92, and Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones were third in 1:58.60.

Like Holcomb, Meyers has a bye onto the national team.

“I’m a slow starter,” said Meyers, the 2013 World Championships silver medalist.  “I need some time to get back into it.  It feels really good to get race experience, because race day is different than a training session.  The adrenaline is higher, and you have to deal with the stakes-whether you win or lose.  My goal is to get better every week and to continue improving my driving skills.”

The fourth-place team was an interesting pair — 2010 Olympian Bree Schaaf, coming back from hip surgery, and Lauryn Williams, a three-time Olympic sprinter who won silver in the 100m at the 2004 Games.

Meyers, Greubel and Fenlator were the top three U.S. pilots in the last World Cup season. The U.S. will likely qualify the maximum three women’s sleds for Sochi. Evans, Eberling, Jones, Williams and Emily Azevedo are considered the front-runners for three push athlete spots.

Azevedo did not compete in Lake Placid but is expected to be on one of the teams when selection races continue in Park City in two weeks.

The national team will be named Oct. 26 for the World Cup season, which begins Nov. 30 in Calgary. The U.S. Olympic team will be largely based on World Cup results.

Video: How bobsledders train without ice

Yevgenia Medvedeva breaks record in Grand Prix Final short program

MISSISSAUGA, ON - OCTOBER 28: Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia competes in the Women's Singles Short Program during day one of the 2016 Skate Canada International at Hershey Centre on October 28, 2016 in Mississauga, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva broke the record for highest women’s short program score at the Grand Prix Final on Friday.

Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost in more than one year, totaled 79.21 points in Marseille, France. That beat Mao Asada‘s 78.66 from the 2014 World Championships, the previous record under a decade-old judging system.

“I knew approximately about the record,” Medvedeva said through a translator. “For me, it’s one step further.”

Medvedeva leads Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond by 3.67 points going into Saturday’s free skate. No U.S. woman qualified for the six-skater Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2008.

Medvedeva, 17, hopes to repeat as champion at the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual figure skating event.

She already holds the free skate world record and can break Yuna Kim‘s record for total score with a solid effort Saturday in Marseille. Medvedeva said she can perform better than she did Friday, specifically with her program interpretation and spins.

“I always strive for perfection,” she said through a translator. “When you stop doing that, you will stop progress.”

The Grand Prix Final concludes with the women’s and men’s free skates and free dance Saturday (schedule here). NBCSN will air coverage Sunday from 8:30-11 p.m. ET.

Earlier Friday, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov held onto their short-program lead to win the pairs event by 7.14 points over China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the two-time world champions and pre-event favorites, struggled in the short program and free skate and lost for just the second time in the last three seasons.

In the short dance, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir recorded the highest score of all time, an 80.50, to take a 2.53-point lead into Saturday’s free dance.

That Virtue and Moir lead is no surprise — they were the top couple in the fall Grand Prix season — but their closest challenger is a surprise.

It is not two-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, but instead Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, who totaled a personal-best short dance.

MORE: Javier Fernandez builds toward last Olympic chance

Women’s Short Program
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 79.21
2. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 75.54
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 74.64
4. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 73.29
5. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 68.98
6. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 65.74

Short Dance
1. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 80.50
2. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.97
3. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 77.86
4. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 74.04
5. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 72.47
6. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 70.87

Pairs Results
GOLD: Yevgenia Tarasovana/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 213.85
SILVER: Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 206.71
BRONZE: Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 205.99
4. Natalya Zabiyako/Aleksander Enbert (RUS) — 188.32
5. Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 186.85
6. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin (CHN) — 183.19

Gracie Gold’s outlook for U.S. Championships clouded after more struggles

Gracie Gold
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Gracie Gold struggled in all four of her competitions this fall, capped by her lowest total score in four years at a Croatian event this week, putting her under scrutiny for the U.S. Championships in six weeks.

She singled three jumps and fell twice across two programs at Golden Spin in Zagreb, Croatia, on Thursday and Friday.

Gold totaled 159.02 points for sixth place, her first time below 160 points since 2012 Skate Canada in her first season as a senior skater.

Italian Carolina Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist, won with 196.23 points in her first full competition since the 2014 World Championships.

GOLD’S SKATES: Short Program | Free Skate

Earlier this fall, Gold finished last of six skaters in the free skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1, fifth at Skate America in October and eighth at Trophée de France in November.

Gold has spoken openly about trying to mentally and physically recover from last season’s world championships, where she dropped from first after the short program to finish fourth, and taking weeks off from training in the summer offseason.

Even with the rough skates, Gold still ranks fourth among U.S. women in top scores this season, behind Ashley WagnerMariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu.

She could struggle — to a degree — at the U.S. Championships in January and still make the three-woman world championships team. Gold has finished first or second at all four of her senior nationals appearances.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Top U.S. women’s skaters in 2016-17
1. Ashley Wagner — 196.44 (Skate America)
2. Mariah Bell — 191.59 (Skate America)
3. Mirai Nagasu — 189.11 (Autumn Classic)
4. Gracie Gold — 184.22 (Skate America)
5. Amber Glenn — 183.60 (Golden Spin)
6. Courtney Hicks — 182.98 (Rostelecom Cup)