Daisuke Takahashi

Home sweep for Japan at NHK Trophy

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Home favorites Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada thrilled the crowd in Tokyo Saturday at the NHK Trophy, winning respective Grand Prix titles.

Takahashi, a bronze medalist at the 2010 Olympic Games, used a strong free skate to run away with the title, scoring a 268.31 overall to countryman Nobunari Oda‘s 253.16, who was second. American Jeremy Abbott, who had been seventh after the short program, finished third.

Herself an Olympic medalist in Vancouver (silver), Asada won by a similar 15-point margin in the ladies event, 14-year-old Russian Yelena Radyonova coming in second. Japan’s Akiko Suzuki was third while 18-year-old American Gracie Gold finished in fourth place.

Abbott vaulted himself into third with a spirited free skate which he punctuated by throwing his hand over his mouth in disbelief once he was finished. The third-place finish in the free skate meant he surpassed countryman Adam Rippon, a 23-year-old who settled for fourth.

Max Aaron, the reigning U.S. champion, fell on one of his planned quadruple jumps and told coach Tom Zakrajsek, “I haven’t had a good one yet,” as he stepped off the ice. Aaron was third behind Rippon at Skate America in October, but looked sloppy in his free skate and settled for seventh out of nine skaters in Tokyo.

It wasn’t good for 2013 World Championships bronze medalist Javier Fernandez, either. The Spaniard was making his Grand Prix debut for the season and dropped from second to fifth following an eighth-place finish in the long program, which featured a series of missteps for the 22-year-old.

For Asada, it’s two gold medals in two Grand Prix events, securing her a spot in the Grand Prix Final next month in Japan. Radyonova’s age disqualifies her from competing in the Olympics, though she captured another Grand Prix medal after winning bronze at Skate America last month.

Gold, a Chicago native, was without veteran coach Frank Carroll, whom she started working with in September. Carroll, who has coached the likes of Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, did not make the trip to Japan.

Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion and an Olympian in 2010, was eighth.

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Ladies results
1 Mao ASADA JPN 207.59
2 Yelena RADYONOVA RUS 191.81
3 Akiko SUZUKI JPN 179.32
4 Gracie GOLD USA 177.81
5 Satoko MIYAHARA JPN 170.21
6 Valentina MARCHEI ITA 168.95
7 Alena LEONOVA RUS 161.94
8 Mirai NAGASU USA 141.71
9 Elene GEDEVANISHVILI GEO 129.24

Men’s results
1 Daisuke TAKAHASHI JPN 268.31
2 Nobunari ODA JPN 253.16
3 Jeremy ABBOTT USA 237.41
4 Adam RIPPON USA 233.71
5 Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 230.45
6 Takahito MURA JPN 227.22
7 Max AARON USA 223.35
8 Konstantin MENSHOV RUS 221.32
9 Sergei VORONOV RUS 221.18

Triplets set for Olympic history in Rio (video)

Luik sisters
NBC News
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Estonian sisters Leila, Liina and Lily Luik are set to become what is believed to be the first set of triplets to compete in an Olympics, according to Games historians.

The Luiks, identical triplets born Oct. 14, 1985, remain the only Estonian women to meet the Olympic qualifying time for the marathon. And since a nation can send three qualified athletes to the Olympic marathon, all three are in line to go to Rio.

The Estonia athletics federation’s qualifying cutoff is Wednesday. It doesn’t believe any other Estonians will register an Olympic qualifying time by then.

With most marathons taking place on weekends, it appears the Luiks are safe, even though none has run faster than 2:37, and the Olympic medal winners will likely be running in the low-to-mid 2:20s.

MORE: Ethiopian legend not on Olympic marathon team

Paralympic champ Markus Rehm still hopes for Olympic spot

Markus Rehm
Getty Images
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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Paralympic long jump champion Markus Rehm is still hoping to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite a scientific study’s inconclusive findings on whether his carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes.

Wolfgang Potthast of the German Sport University in Cologne said Monday that it was “difficult if not impossible” to determine whether the 27-year-old Rehm gets an advantage or not.

The study conducted by the German Sport University along with the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo found that athletes with a running-specific prosthesis have an impaired ability in the run up but a better technique for the long jump, leaving open the question of whether a prosthesis helps or hinders the athlete.

“The study could not identify any advantage through the prosthesis, and I think that for me is a good result,” said Rehm, who is hoping to compete both at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August and at the following Paralympics.

“I want to bring the Paralympic and Olympic sport closer together. To give both sides the chance to profit from this.”

Rehm is aiming to be the second athlete with a carbon-fiber prosthesis to compete at the Olympics and Paralympics after South African runner Oscar Pistorius in 2012.

To become eligible under a new rule introduced last year by the IAAF, Rehm has to prove that his prosthesis gives him no advantage over athletes with a similar disability or non-amputee long jumpers.

“I’ve taken the first step with the study, so now I await a step in return from the world body,” said Rehm, who lost his lower right leg in a wakeboarding accident when he was 14.

Rehm won the gold medal at 2012 London Paralympics and holds the world record in his competition class at 8.40 meters. Rehm also won the German national title in 2014 over non-amputee athletes, drawing a mixed reaction.

He was then prevented from competing for the German team at the European Championships, with track and field officials saying the prosthesis could give him an unfair catapult effect.

“Since the German championship in 2014 it has been an ordeal. It’s difficult for me to hear these charges [of having an advantage]. I don’t want to have any advantage. On the other hand, you feel you have to apologize to other athletes,” Rehm said. “There were times when I asked myself if it was worth it.”

Under current rules, Rehm is not eligible for the German team.

“There is no finding that has found an advantage,” Friedhelm Julius Beucher, president of the German National Paralympic Committee, said reacting to the study. “It’s not a question of fairness but a case of discrimination.”

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