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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Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 07:  A general view of the Christ The Redeemer statue atop the Corcovado on July 7, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
AP
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The world’s best known Olympic historian said Friday it will take something more destructive than the Zika virus to cancel the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“Historically, the only times the Games have been cancelled is in war — World War I and World War II,” David Wallechinsky told the Associated Press. “Other than that, nothing has done it.”

Brazil is the epicenter of the rapidly spreading mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is also generating rumors that South America’s first Games may be called off instead of opening on Aug. 5.

Researchers have linked the virus to a birth defect that can leave newborns with long-lasting health and developmental problems.

Brazil’s Sports Minister George Hilton issued a statement saying that canceling the Games “is not in discussion,” and Rio organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly shot down the notion it’s even being considered.

Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, said the only similar case was the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, when three athletes from west Africa were banned from competing over fears they had contracted the Ebola virus and the subsequent possibility of it spreading.

“That’s the only time that disease has ever entered into it,” he said.

The 1916 Olympics were called off during World War I, and four Games — two summer and two winter — were cancelled between 1940 and 1944. Two Summer Olympics were hit by partial boycotts in 1980 and 1984.

Wallechinsky said it was too late to move the games from Rio.

“A lot of money has been put into this; the athletes, the infrastructure,” he said. “It’s pretty late to move the Games so I think they’ll go forward.”

Brazil is spending at least $10 billion to prepare for the Games. Add to that, billions spent on television rights, and maybe just as much on sponsorship, advertising across 28 sport federations, and the more than 200 nations that participate.

“There would be a lot of lawsuits,” Wallechinsky said. “It would be a dream event for lawyers.”

The Zika virus adds to other problems with South America’s first Olympics, including water pollution in Rio’s venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathlon and open-water swimming , and deep cuts of almost 30 percent to keep a $2 billion operating budget in balance.

Only about half of the domestic tickets for the game have been sold, and organizers fear the Zika outbreak could scare off foreign tourists — particularly Americans.

Janice Forsyth, an Olympic historian at Western University in Canada, predicted the Zika threat “is going to blow over.”

“But if it really catches on, then we’ve got a global concern that’s not just about the Olympics,” she said. “But it would have to be really extraordinary for the game to be cancelled. Even with threats of terrorism, the games still don’t get cancelled.”

Forsyth said the virus might even have beneficial impact on Rio’s preparations, distracting from other problems.

“In a sad way, maybe it’s a positive diversion from what is actually going on with the games,” she said. “A twist for games that seem to be constantly struggling.”

VIDEO: Rio Olympic venues timelapse

‘Race’ film clip of 1936 Olympic long jump (video)

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“Race,” a film about 1936 Olympic legend Jesse Owens‘ triumphs in the face of Nazi Germany, hits theaters Feb. 19.

In the above clip, Owens competes in long jump qualifying after receiving a tip from fellow jumper German Luz Long to avoid fouling on his last attempt to advance to the final.

Owens would then beat Long in the final, though the pair forged a friendship.

In other clips, Owens, played by Stephan James, speaks with his Ohio State coach, Larry Snyder, played by Jason Sudeikis. Watch that here.

Also, Owens discusses taking part in the Olympics amid racial prejudice in the U.S. Watch that here.

MORE: James discusses playing Owens in ‘Race’ | VIDEO: ‘Race’ trailer