France Figure Skating

Two highest-ever scores as Chan trounces in Paris

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Out of superlatives to describe Patrick Chan’s performance at the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris, one had to turn to the made-up variety: “Chan-tastic!” “Chan-neling greatness!” “Chan the man!”

Once again Saturday the reigning and three-time world champion from Canada delivered a highest-ever score (also known as a world record) at the fifth Grand Prix of the season, registering a 196.75 in the free skate for a 295.27 total to run away with the gold medal.

“Is that a world record?” asked his coach Kathy Johnson in the Kiss and Cry. “I think it’s a world record.”

There was no doubting the 22-year-old’s performance, which included two cleanly-landed quadruple jumps and seven triples, executed precisely by the skater that many believe to be the favorite for the Sochi Olympics come February.

Overall, Chan scored the highest score ever in all three categories this weekend: the short program, the free skate and the overall score.

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu delivered a strong performance, skating to second place with a 263.59 while American Jason Brown, just 18, was third. The bronze-medal finish for Brown marks his first Senior Grand Prix podium in just two appearances.

Earlier, in the pairs competition, two-time world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian edged out Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford for the gold medal. Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin captured the bronze, up a spot from fourth place after the short program.

While the day belonged to Chan, the ripples of Brown’s energetic program and third-place finish in Paris will be felt across the Atlantic, where he joins Adam Rippon as two skaters who are shaking up the men’s field leading into the U.S. Championships in January, where just two Olympic spots are available for Team USA.

Skating to Riverdance’s “Reel Around the Sun,” Brown hit seven triple jumps and only faltered one, popping an Axel into a single.

“Oh my god!” exclaimed Brown as his score, a personal best of 243.09, popped up. He covered his face in disbelief.

Brown’s score is first among the American men this season, edging out scores from Rippon and Max Aaron’s performances from Skate America.

China’s Yan Han, who won the Cup of China earlier this month, faltered in his free skate, not able to challenge Brown for the podium. It was a disappointing weekend for the 17 year old, who was seen – along with Hanyu – as a challenger to Chan.

But Hanyu was the only skater to chase Chan in the slightest, though he fell on a quadruple toe in his long program.

“We can add 20 more points to that total,” said his coach, former Olympian Brian Orser, after the marks came through.

Denney/Coughlin, the 2012 U.S. champions, landed on their first podium of the season after finishing fourth at Skate America last month. Russians Vera Bazarova and Yuri Lariyonov dropped from third place to fourth overall.

Later Saturday the ice dance and Ladies’ programs come to a close, where Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and American Ashley Wagner are leaders, respectively, coming into the long programs.

Patrick CHAN                CAN       295.27
Yuzuru HANYU                JPN       263.59
Jason BROWN                 USA       243.09
Han YAN                     CHN       214.23
Michal BREZINA              CZE       206.22
Nan SONG                    CHN       204.73
Florent AMODIO             FRA       191.13
Alexander MAJOROV     SWE       180.62

Qing PANG / Jian TONG                    CHN       193.86
Meagan DUHAMEL / Eric RADFORD            CAN       190.89
Caydee DENNEY / John COUGHLIN            USA       184.01
Vera BAZAROVA / Yuri LARIONOV            RUS        180.07
Vanessa JAMES / Morgan CIPRES            FRA       172.27
Natasha PURICH / Mervin TRAN             CAN       162.09
Annabelle PRÖLSS / Ruben BLOMMAERT       GER       157.62
Nicole DELLA MONICA / Matteo GUARISE     ITA        147.88

Tina Maze to retire from Alpine skiing after farewell race

MERIBEL, FRANCE - MARCH 21: (FRANCE OUT) Tina Maze of Slovenia takes 3rd place in the overall Slalom World Cup during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Finals Women's Slalom on March 21, 2015 in Meribel, France. (Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — The skier best known for crushing the overall World Cup points record and celebrating her victories with a cartwheeling handspring, announced her retirement.

Two-time Olympic champion Tina Maze of Slovenia said on Thursday she will quit the sport after competing in one more race, a World Cup giant slalom on home soil in Maribor on Jan. 7.

“I am really happy with what I’ve achieved. I don’t feel the need to compete at such a high level anymore,” Maze said.

The Slovenian started her World Cup career with a GS in Maribor, as a 15-year-old in 1999.

A few weeks after winning two gold medals at the 2015 World Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado, Maze was beaten for the overall title by Anna Veith, then competing under her maiden name, Fenninger. Maze took a year off from the slopes and got her degree in elementary education.

The move prompted year-long speculation about her career, but Maze always kept all options open until announcing her decision two days before the World Cup season-opener on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden on Saturday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, live on NBC Sports app, and 3 p.m. ET, Universal HD).

“I was always thinking about it,” Maze said. “I have a big motivation to compete one last time in front of my home crowd.”

Maribor will be her last World Cup, but Maze did not rule out defending her world downhill title in St. Moritz in February.

“Now I live by the day,” Maze said, adding she will decide about a start in Switzerland in the weeks leading up to the championships. As the defending champion, she wouldn’t have to qualify.

Maze’s rise to the top started in 2008 when she set up her own independent team, led by her Italian coach and boyfriend, Andrea Massi. They called it the Team to aMaze.

Maze won her first of 13 medals at major championships the following year, taking GS silver at the worlds in Val d’Isere, France. She added two more silver medals at the Vancouver Olympics the next year.

Finishing fourth in the 2010 overall World Cup standings, Maze improved one spot each year and finally won the big crystal globe to cap a record-breaking season in 2013.

Maze won 11 races that season, took the GS and super-G titles, and broke the overall World Cup points record in a single season. She beat the previous mark of 2,000, set by Austrian great Hermann Maier in 2000, by another 414 points.

The same season, Maze also became only the sixth female skier to win events in all five Alpine disciplines, with American standout Lindsey Vonn the only other active achiever.

Her World Cup results faded in the following season, but Maze went back to the top when she won Slovenia’s first ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics by sharing victory in the Sochi downhill with Dominique Gisin of Switzerland.

“At the moment it is not easy for me,” Massi said, adding he was particularly proud of his girlfriend reaching the top of her sport without doping.

“Tina is the best proof to young athletes that you can become the best on normal food: Schnitzels, pasta, vegetables, and goulash soup.”

Known as a gritty competitor who doesn’t try to hide her mood after not winning a race, Maze once said she becomes “completely inaccessible” when things are not going her way.

“That is just who I am. I certainly do not want to be rude,” said Maze, who in 2012 displayed her singing talent by entering the charts in her home country.

The song was fittingly named, “My way is my decision.”

MORE: Vonn details weight struggles in new book

Alpine skiing women’s World Cup season preview

Lindsey Vonn, MIkaela Shiffrin
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If the previous Alpine skiing season taught us anything, it’s that nobody is safe.

The three most decorated skiers all suffered knee injuries in crashes, missing part or all of the campaign.

Oct. 21: Austrian Anna Veith, the 2014 and 2015 World Cup overall champion, damages her right knee in a training crash, three days before the first race of the year. Veith misses the entire season.

Dec. 12: Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic slalom champion, suffers right knee injuries in a light warm-up crash before a giant slalom in Sweden. Shiffrin misses two months of races, returning for the final month of the season.

Feb. 27: Lindsey Vonn, winner of 76 World Cup races, suffers three left knee fractures in a super-G crash in Andorra. Vonn’s season ends three weeks premature.

Swiss Lara Gut, once a teenage phenom who missed the 2010 Olympics due to preseason hip surgery, stayed healthy and captured her first World Cup overall title last March.

The versatile Gut won six races across four disciplines, but she also had the benefit of the absences of Veith, Shiffrin, Vonn and the other two top skiers from the year before — Slovenian Tina Maze and retired Austrian Nicole Hosp.

Of the aforementioned skiers, only Shiffrin will join Gut in the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday (NBC Sports app, 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET; Universal HD, 3 p.m. ET).

Shiffrin eyes her first outright World Cup giant slalom victory, two years after sharing a Soelden win with Veith. Any Soelden podium place would boost Shiffrin’s bid to become an overall title contender by becoming more proficient in giant slalom and adding more speed races. Shiffrin is already on an 11-race slalom win streak.

Maze, 33 and a two-time 2014 Olympic gold medalist, plans to race at one World Cup stop this season, at home in Maribor, Slovenia, from Jan. 7-8, and then retire, according to European media.

Vonn and Veith are skipping Soelden for different reasons.

Vonn passed on Saturday’s giant slalom because she’s not going for the World Cup overall title this season, but rather for individual race victories. Vonn, who does not excel in giant slalom, is 10 wins shy of the World Cup career record of 86 held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark. She is expected to focus on downhills and super-Gs.

Veith is the 2015 World champion in the giant slalom but simply isn’t race ready coming back from her injuries. She will also miss the next giant slalom on Nov. 26 in Killington, Vt., pushing her return to December, according to Austrian media.

Vonn hasn’t publicly committed to Killington and could, like Veith, wait for the first downhill and super-G races in December.

Everybody is looking ahead to the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February. That event may be a bellwether for the 2018 Olympics, especially if Veith and Vonn are back up to speed to join Gut and Shiffrin.

Four years ago at worlds, Vonn crashed and then rushed her comeback, crashed again and ended up missing the 2014 Olympics. Maze and Shiffrin each took gold medals at the 2013 Worlds and then did so again at the Sochi Winter Games.

But if last season taught us anything, the Alpine skiing landscape can change quickly.

MORE: Vonn details weight struggles in new book