Gracie Gold

Gracie Gold gets bronze at Skate Canada

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U.S. silver medalist Gracie Gold dropped from first after the short program to finish third at Skate Canada on Saturday, her first competition under new coach Frank Carroll.

Gold, 18, hit a triple-triple jump combination but also fell during her free skate at Saint John, New Brunswick. She led by 2.56 points after the short program Friday and finished 11.58 points behind Russian winner Julia Lipnitskaia.

Earlier Saturday, Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek jumped from second after the short program to win the pairs competition with 193.92 points, .15 better than Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.

Skate Canada, the second of six Grand Prix events before the Grand Prix Final, concludes later Saturday with the free dance (4:30 p.m. ET) and men’s free skate (7:10). Universal Sports will have coverage.

NBC and NBC Live Extra will have Skate Canada coverage Sunday from 4-6.

Gold failed to put together back-to-back strong programs, just as she did at the U.S. Championships in January and World Championships in March. On Saturday, she opened her program with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination but later fell on one jump and stumbled on another.

Gold’s score, 186.65, was 7.16 points lower than U.S. champion Ashley Wagner‘s total at Skate America last week. Three women will make the U.S. Olympic Team after the U.S. Championships in Boston in January. Wagner and Gold are the top two contenders.

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Christina Gao, a Harvard student who has been fifth at the last four U.S. Championships, took fourth with 173.69 total points Saturday.

Gao landed all of her jumps but was missing a triple-triple combination skating to the “Angels and Demons” soundtrack.

Gao and Agnes Zawadzki, who is entered at Cup of China next week, are thought to be the top hopefuls behind Wagner and Gold for Olympic spots.

Another American, Courtney Hicks, moved up from ninth place (last) after the short program to finish sixth. Hicks upset Gold to win the U.S. International Classic last month.

Hicks, 17, was fourth at the U.S. Championships in January and an injury replacement for reigning Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim at Skate Canada.

Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond, 17, withdrew with a hamstring strain after finishing fifth in the short program Friday.

In pairs, favored Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford fell to third after leading the short program. Skate Canada was missing the Olympic gold- and silver-medal favorites from Russia and Germany.

Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier and Lindsay Davis and Rockne Brubaker were fifth and sixth, respectively, with scores far lower than the three U.S. pairs at Skate America last week.

Two U.S. pairs will go to the Olympics, where the U.S. hasn’t won a pairs medal since 1988.

Women
1. Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS) 198.23
2. Akiko Suzuki (JPN) 193.75
3. Gracie Gold (USA) 186.65
4. Christina Gao (USA) 173.69
5. Amelie Lacoste (CAN) 163.11
6. Courtney Hicks (USA) 162.00
7. Natalia Popova (UKR) 145.88
8. Veronik Mallet (CAN) 138.13

Pairs
1. Berton/Hotarek (ITA) 193.92
2. Sui/Han (CHN) 193.77
3. Duhamel/Radford (CAN) 190.62
4. Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN) 159.82
5. Denney/Frazier (USA) 158.83
6. Davis/Brubaker (USA) 153.71
7. Vartmann/Van Cleave (GER) 149.59
8. Purdy/Marinaro (CAN) 131.39

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Ashley Wagner ends ‘turbulent season’ as Yevgenia Medvedeva breaks record

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva beat her world-record free skate score by six points, while Japan won World Team Trophy to close the figure skating season in Tokyo on Saturday.

Americans Ashley Wagner and Karen Chen were sixth and ninth, respectively, in the free skate. The U.S., which had won the last two World Team Trophy titles, finished third in the this year’s standings behind Japan and Russia.

“This has been a turbulent season for me, so to finish with such a strong performance was really nice,” Wagner said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “That wasn’t perfect, but I fought for every single thing. I’m very happy.”

The 17-year-old Medvedeva hasn’t lost an individual competition since November 2015, a run that includes the last two world titles.

She came into World Team Trophy having broken the women’s scoring record at her last two competitions (European and world championships). The mark was formerly held by Yuna Kim, set at the 2010 Olympics.

At World Team Trophy, Medvedeva became the first female skater to break 80 points in a short program and 160 points in a free skate. She won the free skate by a whopping 14 points over Japan’s Mai Mihara.

Wagner, 25, ended her least successful season since 2010-11 with her highest score of the campaign.

She followed up a breakout 2016 World Championships, where she won silver, by finishing seventh at worlds last month. She also was beaten by Chen at the U.S. Championships and failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final for the first time in five seasons.

Chen, the surprise U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher at worlds, struggled at World Team Trophy. The 17-year-old totaled 168.95 points, 30 points fewer than her personal best at worlds. She fell twice in her free skate.

In eight competitions this season, Chen had poor results in six of them.

But she peaked for the two biggest events — nationals and worlds.

“It was a tough season for me, but I feel like I learned a lot,” Chen said Saturday, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m going to use all of this experience to help me be more consistent next season.”

Chen remains a strong contender for the three-woman Olympic team, which will be named after the U.S. Championships in January.

As does Wagner.

Others in the running include U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell (12th at worlds) and Mirai Nagasu (fourth at the last two nationals). Plus, two-time U.S. champion Gracie Gold, who changed coaches after a dreadful season.

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Ashton Eaton competes on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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Items on the to-do list for two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton now that he’s retired: Play with the puppy. Sharpen his snowboarding skills. Take a space shuttle to Mars.

That’s right, warp speed to the Red Planet.

Not tomorrow or anything, but it remains on the agenda. He’s also trying to get his wife, Canadian heptathlon bronze medalist Brianne Theisen-Eaton, on board with the futuristic excursion.

“Not as interested,” she laughed. “Too big of a lifestyle change.”

The first couple of multi-events have down-to-earth retirement plans as well. Here’s a sampling: Appearing on American Ninja Warrior (Ashton), starting a food-education website (Brianne), supporting a worldwide 6-kilometer walk for clean water and preparing for a move to San Francisco after spending a decade in Eugene, Oregon.

An urge to compete? No longer present, they insisted.

“I will always have a love for it. But missing it? That means I want to do [the decathlon],” said the 29-year-old Ashton, who won’t be going for his third straight world title crown in August. “I’m just fond of it.”

They’re still figuring this retirement thing out after announcing the surprising news in side-by-side essays in January. Ashton walked away after accomplishing all he wanted to accomplish — winning gold at the 2012 London Games and defending his title at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also exited with his world record standing at 9,045 points, which he amassed at the 2015 World Championships.

Brianne was ready to move on to Act II of their lives following a hard-earned bronze in Rio. She was emotionally and physically worn out.

“My parents were asking us, ‘Do you miss anything?'” the 28-year-old Brianne said. “I think the answer is no. It was a perfect time to retire. When we watch competitions, it’s relaxing and fun. There’s not a little bit that’s like, ‘We wish we were there competing.”‘

The Eatons recently expanded their family when they brought home Zora, who’s a cross between a Bernese mountain dog and a poodle. Now, there are puppy classes and walks on their plate.

“A change in lifestyle, for sure,” Brianne said.

On the horizon, an even bigger lifestyle transformation: Their move to the Bay Area this fall for more entrepreneurial opportunities. It’s bittersweet, because the couple met while competing at the University of Oregon as teenagers and married in July 2013. It’s home.

“We just need a change of environment,” Ashton said, “and this checks a lot of boxes.”

Memo to NASA: Ashton has space on his mind. The moon would be nice. So would a trip to the International Space Station. And that pledge to someday make it to Mars? It’s genuine.

“I like things that are really ambitious goals and being first person on Mars would be a good one,” Ashton said. “If in the future, things kind of come around and there’s an opportunity, I’ll take it.”

Recently, Ashton and Brianne were in Peru and staying at a hotel on the side of the cliff with a glass roof. Using a phone “app,” they located the stars and planets in the night’s sky.

“We saw Mars, clear as day,” Ashton said. “It was funny to imagine being there. Brianne was like, ‘Why go there? The earth would be a little green star in the sky.’ I was like, `Yeah, wouldn’t that be incredible? We could say that’s where we’re from, but we are way over here now.”‘

Earlier this month, Ashton helped stage a video-game and technology expo in Portland. He was nervous because, “it’s the first thing nonathletic thing I’ve done in my entire life. But it ended up really well.”

This was definitely more in his comfort zone: Competing in a celebrity edition of “American Ninja Warrior,” a contest that features athletes tackling a series of demanding obstacle courses. The episode is set to air next month.

“I was just as sore after that as after a decathlon,” Ashton said.

One of Brianne’s passions is cooking, leading her to launch a site that features healthy recipes and nutritional tips. It’s expected to go live in June.

They also took up snowboarding. Ashton fell hard for the sport — even after a few run-ins with trees.

“After every day of snowboarding, he’d be like, ‘Let’s go again this week!”‘ Brianne said. “I’d be like, ‘Ash, I need a couple of weeks to heal my tailbone.’ I would be so bruised.”

Of course, they’re still running, too, especially for a good cause. On May 6, the Eatons will participate in World Vision’s global 6-kilometer race, which is the average distance that people in the developing countries walk for water.

See, they’re quite busy.

“Retirement is good,” Brianne said. “We are enjoying our time, and just figuring out what we want to do with ourselves.

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