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’

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter at pre-Games competition.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun was correct to reference the Olympic Charter, which states that “no kind of demonstration … is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which got them kicked out of the Games by the IOC.

The USOC has honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

Olympic hopefuls were peppered with questions about possible protests at the media summit.

“One of the proudest parts of being an American is the ability to have freedom of speech,” four-time Olympian Julia Mancuso said. “I really look up to athletes who take a stand for what they believe in. I really believe as athletes that compete for Team USA, when it comes to the Olympics, I like to think it’s a special event. Not like the NFL or pro sports teams that compete every weekend. For us, it’s every four years. I’m proud for athletes that stand up for what they believe in if they really want to have a message to get out. But I like to think of us all as patriotic.”

Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic bobsled medalist, is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who served in Kuwait and spent summers in the 1980s playing at Atlanta Falcons training camps.

She said any decisions on demonstrations or whether she attends a post-Olympics Team USA White House visit come secondary to her pursuit of making the Olympic team this winter.

“I can’t afford to focus on what I would do in that situation or how I would react,” Meyers Taylor said, adding that anything would be a “game-time decision.” “Maybe the social climate changes a little bit [before the Olympics]. … There’s a lot to consider.”

Aja Evans, a 2014 Olympic bobsled bronze medalist, the sister of former NFL defensive tackle Fred Evans, did not say that she would follow the football players’ lead.

“I honor and commend anyone that does that,” Evans said. “My way of showing my stance is to continue to try to be a positive influence for my city, for my country. I’m representing Team USA the best way I can.”

NCAA hockey players Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, both prospective Olympians with the NHL not participating, said they didn’t envision taking a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I’ve always stood for the national anthem,” Greenway said. “I always will.”

Olympic freestyle skiing medalists Maddie Bowman and Gus Kenworthy have said they plan to skip the traditional Team USA post-Olympic White House visit due to the current presidential administration.

Kenworthy repeated that stance on Monday. He said he was shocked that President Donald Trump believed that athletes kneeling during the national anthem disrespected the flag.

“Those people [servicemen and women] are fighting for the freedom to express their beliefs,” Kenworthy said. “I feel proud to be from a country where we have the right to be able to kind of say what we feel, speak up for what we believe in. I feel that people kneeling before a game is actually quite admirable.”

Kenworthy didn’t rule out a personal demonstration at the Olympics, should he qualify again, but knows he could be stripped of a medal for doing so.

“I’m not saying that I would want to be dictated by fear, and if I was to get a medal and be too scared that it would be taken away from me,” he said. “I think that there’s a way to do things in a way that’s not going to sabotage yourself. You can stand up for something and not throw yourself under the bus.”

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U.S. Olympic men’s hockey player from 2006 has shot at PyeongChang

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PARK CITY, Utah — Though no active NHL players will be in PyeongChang, veteran NHL forward and free agent Brian Gionta could very well play for his second U.S. Olympic team in February.

A USA Hockey official confirmed Monday that the 2006 Olympian Gionta “has a very decent opportunity” to be part of the 2018 Olympic team.

That came in response to a Buffalo radio report that Gionta said it’s looking good for him to play for Team USA.

Gionta, 38, played 15 NHL seasons through last year but is currently unsigned as the NHL preseason continues. The U.S. Olympic team of 25 players named around Jan. 1 is likely to include very few, if any, players with Gionta’s experience.

Gionta was seen at the Rochester (N.Y.) AHL club’s practice Monday (but not taking part), according to media in that area. Gionta could play for an AHL club and be eligible for PyeongChang. USA Hockey wants prospective Olympians to be active in the AHL, NCAA or a European league.

Gionta’s agent has not responded to a request for comment on his Olympic prospects on Monday. Earlier in the summer, Gionta’s agent said that the skater was considering the Olympics.

Gionta led the 2006 U.S. Olympic team with four goals. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, their worst Olympic result over the last four Winter Games.

That came during Gionta’s most productive NHL season — 48 goals (sixth in the league) and 41 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Another Olympian — Ryan Malone from 2010 — embarked on a comeback this preseason and could pursue the Olympics. He has been in camp with the Minnesota Wild. If he doesn’t make the Wild, Malone could play on an AHL contract and be eligible for the Olympics.

USA Hockey confirmed that other players in the potential Olympic pool — at some 100 players at the moment — include Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a 30-year-old forward, played 394 NHL games between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-16 before joining the Swiss League.

Another is goalie Ryan Zapolski, who ranks third in the KHL in goals-against average this season.

John-Michael Liles, a 2006 Olympic defenseman and unsigned NHL veteran, is not interested in continuing his career in a non-NHL league to be considered for the Olympics, USA Hockey said.

U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said this summer that he was interested in some players who “have a rich history in the NHL and with USA Hockey that we think could potentially really help this roster.” Johannson wouldn’t name names then.

Johansson said a “long list” of potential players for the final 25-man roster must be submitted in September.

A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany. That roster is expected to be named in October.

The U.S. staff will also look at NCAA and AHL players ahead of naming the PyeongChang team.

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