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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Carolina Kostner wants to return to competition

Carolina Kostner
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MILAN (AP) — With her suspension coming to an end, Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner already has her sights set on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

The Italian figure skater will be eligible to return to competition on Jan. 1 after serving a suspension for helping her ex-boyfriend evade doping controls.

”The desire is there, and it includes also obviously a possible Olympics,” the 28-year-old Kostner said Tuesday.

Kostner received clearance this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to return to competition next year after agreeing to have her 16-month suspension extended by five months, but then backdated, freeing her to skate earlier than anticipated.

As part of the agreement, Kostner also agreed to act as a spokeswoman against doping, her lawyer said.

But Kostner said it was too soon to lay out a program for her comeback.

”Knowing that I can return to competition in 2016 gives me great strength and great serenity to make a decision,” Kostner said.

Italian skating federation president Andrea Gioss said it would be difficult for Kostner to qualify for the European Championships from Jan. 25-31 because of time constraints. She would have time to qualify for the World Championships in Boston in March by picking up points at sanctioned international competitions.

As she has in the past, Kostner admitted she ”made an error,” by helping her ex-boyfriend, Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer, evade a doping test and other infractions. She has said she was unaware he was doping.

”This period for me was a moment of great growth and maturation,” she said, adding she has broken off all contact with Schwazer but did not wish him ill.

Kostner, who missed out on the Worlds last year but won bronze at the Sochi Olympics, said she has been concentrating on the artistic aspects of skating since the suspension took effect in January, and will be able to return to full training in federation-sanctioned rinks from Nov. 1. In the meantime, she is preparing for an ice show in Verona this week, and spent last winter in a dance studio practicing ballet.

Kostner said she misses competing but that she had nothing to prove by returning to the rink.

”I have a big trove of experience, Olympics that have gone well, Olympics gone badly, falls, getting back up,” Kostner said. ”In a certain sense, I feel the desire and need to give it all meaning, if only to be part of a team and have the young future Italian champion turn to me and ask advice, `You, at those moments, what did you do?”’

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Rio Olympics cutting costs with Brazil deep in recession

Rio de Janeiro Olympic rings
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Olympic organizers, faced with the reality of a country deep in recession, are trimming costs to keep their budget balanced.

To keep spending in line, officials say they will cut back on printed material, reduce staffing at dozens of test events and trim costs for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“This is a very strict budget,” said Sidney Levy, the organizing committee’s chief executive officer. “There’ll be no excess, but we are not going to compromise the essentials.”

Levy has said often over the last few months he will trim costs and cut non-essential purchases.

News of the budget austerity comes as hundreds of journalists from around the world are in Rio this week visiting Olympic venues and talking with organizers about how the Games will run when they open Aug. 5, 2016.

The organizing committee’s budget remains at 7.4 billion reals ($2 billion), which is for putting on the games themselves. It does not include building venues, subway lines and highways to help stage the games.

Operating income is from ticket sales, local sponsorships, merchandising and licensing with the largest contribution from the International Olympic Committee.

Brazil hosted the World Cup last year with year-long protests leading up to the event. Now the Olympics are causing a strain.

Brazil’s currency has lost 70 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year and inflation is running at 10 percent. The economy is expected to remain in a steep recession through the games, and there are calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, partly driven by a $2 billion bribery scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras.

Olympic organizers face other problems.

The venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathlon and open water swimming are heavily polluted with viruses and bacteria with only stop-gap measures possible to contain the problem. Organizers have said athletes are not at risk, though some athletes have openly questioned competing in the dirty water.

An Associated Press study published on July 30 showed high levels of viruses in all of Rio’s water. Organizers say they are looking at viral testing but do not plan to move any venues.

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