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

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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