Yan Han

Yan Han, Anna Pogorilaya win Cup of China

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China’s Yan Han held on to his short program lead, while Russian Anna Pogorilaya jumped from third to first to win at the Cup of China on Saturday.

Yan, 17, the 2012 World junior champion, totaled 245.62 points after his free skate in Beijing to hold off Russian Maksim Kovtun (scroll down for full results).

Pogorilaya became the second straight women’s Grand Prix winner from Russia with 178.62 points, nearly four better than countrywoman Adelina Sotnikova. Yulia Lipnitskaya won Skate Canada a week ago.

France’s Natahlie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, the 2012 World bronze medalists, won the ice dance. The pairs competition went to Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the 2013 World silver medalists.

NBC and NBC Live Extra will have coverage of the Cup of China on Sunday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s an event-by-event rundown of Saturday’s free skates:

Men

Yan landed a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination but also stepped out of a triple Axel and fell on a triple flip.

Here’s how Yan stacks up with the top men from Skate America and Skate Canada:

Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 265.38
Patrick Chan (CAN) — 262.03
Yan Han (CHN) — 245.62
Adam Rippon (USA) — 241.24
Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 238.65
Max Aaron (USA) — 238.36
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) — 236.21
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 234.80

The top men’s skater yet to perform this Grand Prix season is Spain’s Javier Fernandez, the 2013 World bronze medalist, who debuts at NHK Trophy in Tokyo next weekend.

Second-place Kovtun landed two quadruple jumps (one in combination) in the top-scoring free skate to hold onto second place. The 18-year-old finished 17th at the World Championships in March, giving Russia a single men’s entry at the Olympics.

It’s believed that entry will go to three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko, if he shows he’s healthy at the Russian National Championships in December and the European Championships in January.

Plushenko hasn’t competed much since winning silver at the 2010 Olympics, but he did score 265.94 points at the 2013 Russian Championships, nearly 30 more points than Kovtun tallied in Beijing the last two days.

Denis Ten, the 2013 World silver medalist, finished fourth (224.80) in his Grand Prix season debut after pulling out of Skate America with a back injury. Ten was questionable to compete in Beijing given he developed a jaw infection training in California. The infection also reportedly left black spots in his ankles.

Richard Dornbush, the 2011 U.S. silver medalist, totaled 218.57 points after falling on his quadruple toe loop attempt in his free skate.

Two men will make the Olympic team following the U.S. Championships in Boston in January. Here’s how Dornbush’s score stacks up with the other top U.S. men in the Grand Prix season so far:

Adam Rippon — 241.24
Max Aaron — 238.36
Jason Brown — 231.03
Richard Dornbush — 218.57
Josh Farris — 216.72
Jeremy Abbott — 215.95
Ross Miner — 196.89

Aaron, Abbott and Rippon are entered in the NHK Trophy in Tokyo next weekend. The wild card for the Olympics is 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who is working his way back from a hip injury and hasn’t competed since the Vancouver Games.

Women

Pogorilaya, the 2013 World junior bronze medalist, followed fellow 15-year-old Russian Lipnitskaya in winning a Grand Prix event.

Skating to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” she opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and added five more triple jumps.

Here’s how Pogorilaya stacks up with the top women from Skate America and Skate Canada:

Mao Asada (JPN) — 204.55
Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 198.23
Ashley Wagner (USA) — 193.81
Akiko Suzuki (JPN) — 193.75
Gracie Gold (USA) — 186.75
Yelena Radyonova (RUS) — 183.95 (not Olympic eligible)
Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 178.62
Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 176.75
Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 174.70
Christina Gao (USA) — 173.69
Carolina Kostner (ITA) 173.40

Kostner, the 2012 World champion, dropped from second after the short program to third, falling on a triple toe loop. She finished 1.3 points behind Sotnikova, the Russian leader after the short program. Sotnikova fell twice in her free skate.

American Agnes Zawadzki did not complete a triple-triple combination and fell on a triple Lutz.

Three U.S. women will make the Olympic team after the U.S. Championships.

Here’s how Zawadzki, the U.S. bronze medalist, stacks up with the top U.S. women from Skate America and Skate Canada:

Ashley Wagner — 193.81
Gracie Gold — 186.75
Christina Gao — 173.69
Agnes Zawadzki — 147.64

Pairs

The Germans Savchenko and Szolkowy jumped past Chinese short program leaders Pang Qing and Tong Jian despite Savchenko falling on a throw at the end of their free skate.

Savchenko and Szolkowy trailed by a little over one point after the short program and ended up winning with 201.21 total points, nearly seven better than the Chinese veterans.

The Germans are considered the top threat to Russian World champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, who did not compete in Beijing but will lead the NHK Trophy field.

Here are how the world’s top pairs and the U.S.’ top pairs stack up after three Grand Prix events:

Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS) — 237.71
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) — 208.45
Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 201.21
Pang/Tong (CHN) 194.38
Berton/Hotarek (ITA) — 193.92
Sui/Han (CHN) — 193.77
Duhamel/Radford (CAN) 190.62

Denney/Coughlin (USA) — 182.43
Castelli/Shnapir (USA) — 177.11
Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) — 168.42
Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 161.72

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the 2013 U.S. silver medalists, finished in fifth place in Beijing with that 161.72, 6.2 points better than Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay. However, Zhang and Bartholomay scored that 168.42 at Skate America two weeks ago. Two U.S. pairs will make the Olympic team.

Ice Dance

Pechalat and Bourzat leapfrogged Russian short program leaders Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev.

Those two teams are among the Sochi medal contenders with the reigning World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. and reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

Here’s how the top couples stack up after their Grand Prix season debuts:

Davis/White (USA) — 188.23
Virtue/Moir (CAN) — 181.03
Weaver/Poje (CAN) — 175.23
Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA) 168.49
Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 165.68
Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 163.42
Shibutani/Shibutani (USA) — 154.47
Hubbell/Donohue (USA) — 153.20
Chock/Bates (USA) 150.53

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the U.S. silver medalists, held onto their third-place standing after the short program at the Cup of China. U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton fell from fourth to fifth. Three U.S. ice dance couples will make the Olympic team.

Davis and White are entered in NHK Trophy next week.

Cup of China Results

Men
1. Yan Han (CHN) 245.62
2. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) 238.65
3. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 226.92
4. Denis Ten (KAZ) 224.80
5. Richard Dornbush (USA) 218.57
6. Florent Amodio (FRA) 213.39
7. Peter Liebers (GER) 200.80
8. Song Nan (CHN) 196.80
9. Wang Yi (CHN) 185.22

Women
1. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 178.62
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 174.70
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 173.40
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 165.95
5. Nikol Gosviani (RUS) 152.04
6. Haruka Imai (JPN) 150.30
7. Agnes Zawadzki (USA) 147.64
8. Zhang Kexin (CHN) 144.88
9. Guo Xiaowen (CHN) 139.50
10. Zijun Li (CHN) 138.98

Pairs
1. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 201.21
2. Pang/Tong (CHN) 194.38
3. Peng/Zhang (CHN) 187.19
4. Wang/Wang (CHN) 172.35
5. Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 161.72
6. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 155.52
7. Martiusheva/Rogonov (RUS) 147.19
8. Popova/Massot (FRA) 141.33

Ice Dance
1. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 165.68
2. Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 163.42
3. Chock/Bates (USA) 150.53
4. Carron/Jones (FRA) 134.12
5. Aldridge/Eaton (USA) 132.06
6. Yu/Wang (CHN) 106.18
7. Zhang/Wu (CHN) 104.98

Video: Davis/White on ‘SportsDash’

World Figure Skating Championships women’s preview

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Ashley Wagner has not watched any of Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva‘s programs this season, but this much Wagner knows without looking:

“She is technically flawless, and if there is an athlete that we should be chasing, obviously it’s Yevgenia,” Wagner said.

Medvedeva, a 17-year-old from Moscow, is the biggest favorite across all four disciplines at next week’s world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

Wagner is the 2016 World silver medalist, the first U.S. woman on the podium in 10 years, but it would be shocking if she upgrades to gold next week. Realistically, she’s at best fighting for a silver or bronze along with Russians Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova, Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman, Italian Carolina Kostner and Japan’s Mai Mihara.

Medvedeva is in her own class.

Undefeated since November 2015. Winner of her last 11 events in her first two seasons at the senior level. She can become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

In fact, another gold would give Medvedeva the most dominant two-season stretch by a female skater since Katarina Witt‘s stronghold in the mid-1980s.

“I really appreciate her in the sport because she is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said.

What sets Medvedeva apart is that she has been polished, from her triple-triple jump combinations and spins to her performance quality, since turning 16 in her senior debut season a year ago.

And her consistency. All other recent Russian stars — 2014 Olympic champions Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya and 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva — simply could not put together two straight world-class seasons at the senior level.

Given that history, Wagner is not fully sold on Medvedeva.

“Time will tell,” said Wagner, who has joked that she needs to skate like “a robot” to compete with Medvedeva. “She is not part of this normal cycle of Russian athletes. I feel like they have one or two seasons of dominance, and then they kind of disappear. So we will see what happens to her, but she seems to be going very strong.”

Medvedeva, whose mom was a skater, started in the sport at age 3, inspired like many by the great Yevgeny Plushenko.

Figure skating is popular and storied in Russia, but Medvedeva is rarely recognized back home, where she still spends weekends watching cartoons. She does have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram, though.

Medvedeva’s scores from her four international competitions this season are the four highest scores in the world, all above 220 points. This despite falling at one competition, having one jump called under-rotated at another and stepping out of a landing at another.

Nobody else in next week’s field has cracked 217 points — in their careers.

At December’s Russian Championships, Medvedeva added a second triple toe loop onto a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, knowing she would get zero points for the superfluous jump. She did it three minutes into her free skate (with controversial music from a film about Sept. 11, 2001), when most skaters would be tired.

Medvedeva has shown disappointment when not breaking records and talked about adding a quadruple Salchow to her arsenal. She speaks some English in interviews, even though she hasn’t taken English classes in two years, according to Icenetwork.

“Sometimes I feel like I am two people: the grown-up and the kid,” she said in the fall, according to Icenetwork. “The first one is able to understand and execute difficult programs, while the other one is just like … watching cartoons all the time!”

Medvedeva was last outscored in the short program at last year’s world championships in Boston. She placed third behind Gracie Gold and Pogorilaya, with Wagner in fourth.

In the free skate, Medvedeva and Wagner climbed to gold and silver, respectively. Wagner tallied personal bests for both programs at the 2016 Worlds, yet still finished 7.47 points behind Medvedeva.

Wagner has been unable to replicate those kinds of skates this season. In two international events, her best total is 196.44 points, which seeds her eighth going into worlds. She was also beaten by surprise Karen Chen at the U.S. Championships in January.

“This year is not the year I’m planning on peaking,” Wagner said. “Next year is the year that I am like in it to kill. … This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year and even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me, I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

As noted, the pressure is on Wagner to lead an inexperienced U.S. team of three women in Helsinki. She’ll be joined by training partner Mariah Bell and Chen. The two worlds rookies have been less impressive than Wagner internationally this season. They’re seeded 10th and 16th.

The two best results out of Wagner, Chen and Bell must add up to no more than 13, or else the U.S. will only get two women’s spots at the Olympics for the second time in the last six Winter Games.

There is an outside chance of a Russian sweep, given the second-best skater this season, Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, withdrew due to injury. Pogorilaya, the 2016 World bronze medalist, has the next two highest scores this season after Medvedeva and Miyahara.

Russia also has Sotskova, the most impressive of the first-year senior skaters.

The experienced category is led by Osmond, having her best results since debuting as a senior in 2012, and Kostner, the six-time world medalist back after two years off. They’re seeded third and fourth.

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U.S. women’s hockey players show solildarity in portraits

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The U.S. women’s hockey team is … family, powerful, united, strong, brave, together, limitless, fierce, bold, historic, ambitious, resilient, fearless and devoted.

All 23 players on the U.S. roster planning to boycott the world championship that starts in one week posted portraits on Twitter on Friday morning. Each player held a paper with a one-word descriptor.

The players plan to boycott the world championship tournament in Plymouth, Mich., unless their wage dispute with USA Hockey is settled.

The players believed they reached an agreement with USA Hockey in a 10-hour-plus meeting Monday, but USA Hockey’s later counter offer “didn’t reflect the progress of the negotiations,” according to the players’ representatives.

USA Hockey said Thursday that it will start reaching out to potential replacement players, but it still hopes to come to an agreement to field its original team in Plymouth.

“As we have maintained from the beginning, this issue is about more than the compensation of the current team: it’s about equitable treatment for female players now and in the future,” the players said in a statement Thursday. “A forward-looking agreement will benefit the next generation of players even more than the current players. For that reason, and the fact that the younger players identify with us, we are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play.”

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