Davis/White dance to NHK Trophy crown

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Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White glided to their 14th straight Grand Prix gold medal in ice dance, a streak that dates back to the beginning of the 2009 season, Sunday at the NHK Trophy in Japan.

The American duo, who won silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games and gold at the World Championships in 2011 and 2013, scored a 186.65, over 25 points ahead of the silver medalists, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy.

Siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani from the U.S. were third, less that three points behind the Italian team.

“We’re very pleased with how everything went,” White told the crowd in an interview after their win. “We made a lot of improvements here at NHK. Your knowledge and appreciation means the world to us.”

It was at the World Championships in 2013 that Davis/White scored their highest ever total, a 189.56. Sunday in Tokyo they were seamless, continuing to perfect the lifts that have helped them continue the Olympic season as favorites over Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the reigning Olympic gold medalists.

“We’re really happy with our skating,” Davis said. “We’re looking forward to coming back in two weeks.”

She was referring to the Grand Prix Final, which will be held in Japan in early December. That event marks the only time Davis/White could potentially meet Virtue/Moir leading up to the Sochi Games in February. The two ice dance teams train alongside one another and share a coach in Detroit.

The Shibutanis were delighted with their free dance, which put them just two points ahead of Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who ended their program with a series of dramatic spinning lifts.

Alex Shibutani let out an emphatic “Yes!” when he and Maia completed their program. Alex had fallen during their free dance, set to a Michael Jackson medley, last month at Skate America.

Skate America also saw the same three teams on the podium, though Davis/White were slightly higher with a score of 188.23.

More: Asada, Takahashi win singles crowns in Tokyo

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics

USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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