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.

FULL RESULTS
Men’s
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

Pairs
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

Pressure on Ashley Wagner at world championships

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Ashley Wagner‘s four-year plan has her peaking in 2018, not at the 2017 World Championships, but many call Wagner to carry the U.S. women at worlds in Helsinki next week.

“Next year is the year that I am, like, in it to kill,” she said. “This year is maintaining. This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year.”

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, is the only skater of three American women on this year’s worlds team with prior worlds experience. She is the only one ranked higher than 20th in the world this season.

Normally, figure skating is an individual sport. But next week, the top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no greater than 13 (Wagner places third, and either U.S. champion Karen Chen or U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell places 10th or better, for example).

If not, the U.S. will have two rather than the maximum three women’s entries at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. had three spots at four of the last five Olympics.

Anything less than three in 2018 would mean the U.S. is not keeping up with world power Russia and maybe even Canada and Japan. And it becomes that much harder for Wagner and everyone else to make the Olympic team.

“I know that I have a huge role in these three spots at these world championships,” Wagner said. “I need to set this team up as good as I possibly can, so that way the pressure’s off the other girls.”

The others are the 17-year-old Chen, the surprise winner at the U.S. Championships in January, who then placed 12th at February’s Four Continents Championships, an event that doesn’t include Europeans. Chen said she suffered from nerves, a flu and foot pain caused by broken boots at Four Continents.

And Bell, who took silver at October’s Skate America behind training partner Wagner. Bell, 20, finished sixth at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, where she competed with an amount of pressure she had never before felt.

Of skaters entered at worlds, Bell has the 10th-best total score this season. The skater with the 12th-best total in the worlds field is more than nine points shy of Bell. Chen comes in seeded 16th.

“The tough thing about this worlds is that we have two rookies going into a very stressful event,” Wagner said. “So these two girls are in a really tough position, and I really feel for them. It’s kind of like you have to buckle up and deal with this, and that’s like your only option.”

There is reason for optimism, should Wagner put up something close to the performance of her life from last year’s worlds, where she became the first U.S. women’s medalist in a decade.

“Success in Finland is getting onto that podium,” Wagner said.

But Wagner is nearing the end of her (so far) least impressive season in probably six years. She is seeded eighth at worlds by this season’s top international scores.

She failed to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2011. She was beaten at nationals despite longtime rival Gracie Gold underperforming.

However, Wagner’s goal at nationals wasn’t to win, but to finish in the top three to make the worlds team. She called the runner-up result “perfect.” She focused the last two months on firming up the areas where she lost points.

“Even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me,” Wagner said. “I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

The favorite in Helsinki is clearly Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost since November 2015 and can become the first repeat world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

Wagner said she hasn’t watched any of Medvedeva’s programs this season.

“The only thing that I know about is her long program music is not my favorite piece of music,” Wagner said, alluding to Medvedeva’s choice of sound from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a 2011 film relating to the 9/11 attacks. The music includes, at one point, the voice of George W. Bush declaring that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

But Wagner was effusive of Medvedeva, the latest in a string of Russian Olympic and world champions dating to the Sochi Olympics.

“She is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said. “Now it’s one set thing I know exactly the quality of skating I have to reach, I know exactly the technical program that I have to be able to accomplish.”

Wagner, a seasoned 25 years old, noted a key point this week. She is the only active women’s skater in her class, with her length of experience, who hasn’t taken a break.

Italian Carolina Kostner is 30, but she’s competing at worlds for the first time since 2014, following two seasons off. Japan’s three-time world champion Mao Asada is 26, but she took a season off after Sochi and this year failed to make the worlds team.

Wagner reflected on her world silver medal and her three national championships. She knows they mean nothing next week.

“I have to prove myself all over again,” she said.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

More Russians retroactively disqualified from 2012 Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Three Russian athletes have been disqualified from the 2012 Olympics after failing doping retests, the country’s track and field federation said.

Hammer throwers Maria Bespalova and Gulfiya Khanafeeva and triple jumper Viktoria Valyukevich were all disqualified. None were medalists.

The disqualifications of Bespalova and Khanafeeva mean all three Russian women who competed in the hammer throw in 2012 have tested positive for doping. Tatyana Lysenko was the original winner, but was stripped of her gold medal in October.

Valyukevich, a former European indoor champion, was eighth in the triple jump at the 2012 Olympics and finished two places ahead of Russian teammate Tatyana Lebedeva, who has been stripped of two medals from the 2008 Beijing Games for doping.

In Tuesday’s statement, Russian officials didn’t say which substances were involved. The International Olympic Committee had no immediate comment.

It is the third time Khanafeeva, who won European championship silver in 2005, has been found guilty of a doping offense. She previously served bans in 2002 for a positive test and in 2008 for providing someone else’s urine in a drug test sample.

Bespalova is currently serving a four-year ban after testing positive for a banned steroid in 2015.

Since the IOC started retesting samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games last year, more than 30 Russians in various sports have tested positive. That makes them the largest group out of more than 100 positive tests. Seven more Russians have been disqualified for other doping offenses.

Russia has lost 26 Olympic medals as a result, most of them in track and field. Many of the cases involve turinabol, a substance which former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov has admitted supplying to athletes in a steroid cocktail.

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