Gracie Gold

Gracie Gold leads Skate Canada after short program (video)

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Gracie Gold‘s partnership with Frank Carroll paid off immediately.

Gold, 18, leads Skate Canada after beating her short program personal best by seven points in St. John, New Brunswick, on Friday afternoon. Gold scored a 69.45, topping second-place Russian Julia Lipnitskaia by nearly three points.

The reigning U.S. silver medalist hit all of her jumps — an opening triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, triple loop and double Axel — in her first competitive skate under her new coach, the legendary Carroll.

Gold started training with Carroll in late September. The California-based Carroll, 74, also coaches 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek and was the longtime coach of Michelle Kwan.

“The biggest difference (with Carroll) is the consistency in the training, which I think translates onto the ice very well,” Gold told Universal Sports. “The environment is totally different. Frank’s so experienced. He has a century of skating behind him, and you can tell. The way that he presents the information is so clear, and I think it’s made a big difference in my skating.”

Gold was in tears at practice Thursday after missing jumps, according to Universal Sports. Aggressiveness was the focus Friday.

“I was happy that I really went for everything,” Gold said. “I made them (the jumps) happen. I didn’t just let the triples happen. Often I’m a little bit tentative, especially in the short program. In practice, I had doubled some jumps in run-throughs, so we made a pact to go out there and commit myself to every element.”

Gold will look to stave off a field led by the 15-year-old Lipnitskaia in the free skate Saturday. Japan’s Akiko Suzuki is in third (65.76), followed by another American, Christina Gao, who posted a personal best 62.82. Another American, Courtney Hicks, is in last place at 50.70.

Gold, Gao and Hicks are in the running for any of the three U.S. Olympic Team spots to be named after the U.S. Championships in Boston in January. The leading woman is two-time reigning U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, who scored a 69.26 in her short program at Skate America last week, slightly less than Gold Friday.

In pairs at Skate Canada, world bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada took a slight lead with a 69.57 in the short program. The field is without the world gold and silver medalists. Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the world junior champions, were fifth out of eight pairs.

Women’s Short Program
1. Gracie Gold (USA) 69.45
2. Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS) 66.89
3. Akiko Suzuki (JPN) 65.76
4. Christina Gao (USA) 62.82
5. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) 60.32
6. Amelie Lacoste (CAN) 59.13
7. Natalia Popova (UKR) 52.36
8. Veronik Mallet (CAN) 50.71
9. Courtney Hicks (USA) 50.70

Pairs Short Program
1. Duhamel/Radford (CAN) 69.57
2. Berton/Hotarek (ITA) 69.38
3. Sui/Han (CHN) 69.02
4. Vartmann/Van Cleave (GER) 55.08
5. Denney/Frazier (USA) 55.01
6. Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN) 52.94
7. Davis/Brubaker (USA) 52.69
8. Purdy/Marinaro (CAN) 39.50

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Blake Griffin will miss Olympics, report says

Blake Griffin
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For the second straight Olympics, Blake Griffin will not be able to join Team USA due to injury, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Clippers power forward will be out several months due to his left quad injury, according to the newspaper.

Griffin was originally chosen for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team but withdrew due to a torn meniscus, opening a spot for Anthony Davis.

Davis is also expected to miss the Rio Games due to injury.

Other power forwards on the U.S. finalist list released in January include LaMarcus Aldridge, Kenneth Faried, Draymond Green and Kevin Love.

Rio Olympic cauldron likely to be located near Plaza Maua

Candelaria Church
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Mayor Eduardo Paes says he wants the Olympic cauldron to burn in Rio de Janeiro’s revitalized port area.

The cauldron will be lit at Maracana Stadium during the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5, and will spend the night there before traveling to a permanent home.

Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio organizing committee, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the cauldron will be placed in the port area, but not in the heart of the renovated port area known as Plaza Maua.

“It will be close to Plaza Maua, but not exactly in Plaza Maua,” Andrada said. He said it was likely to be located near the Candelaria Church, which is near the plaza.

“Don’t get me into a fight with the mayor,” Andrada added.

Paes said he hoped the new plaza would be a center for outdoor entertainment during the Games, including performance stages, musical attractions, and large-screen televisions.

“It seems that the Maracana Stadium has limitations,” Paes said, adding that moving out of the Maracana “is good because it democratizes the access to the cauldron.”

The new plaza and downtown Rio are far from the heart of the Games in suburban Barra da Tijuca. It is also an area not usually visited by tourists.

The Olympic flame arrives from Greece and Switzerland on Tuesday in the capital Brasilia, to be carried off the plane by IOC member Carlos Nuzman, the head of the Rio organizing committee.

The flame then goes to the Planalto presidential palace where it is expected to be greeted by President Dilma Rousseff.

Andrada said IOC President Thomas Bach and other top IOC officials would not be at the ceremony.

Rousseff is facing impeachment charges and could be suspended from office as early as May 11, turning over authority to Vice President Michel Temer.

Temer, himself, could also face impeachment proceedings and has a scandal-tainted career.

PHOTOS: Olympic flame visits Acropolis, 1896 Olympic Stadium