ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2012 - Day One

Russia’s Kovtun records monster short program in Plushenko’s absence

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For some 15 years, Yevgeny Plushenko has been the king of Russian skating. But Friday, with no king in sight, a prince reigned over the ice in Moscow, Maksim Kovtun formally announcing his challenge to Plushenko’s throne.

Kovtun has been the up-and-coming boy of a nation steeped in figure skating tradition for the last two years and delivered a monster short program at the Rostelecom Cup, the final Grand Prix of the season, in which Plushenko withdrew from a week ago with a knee injury.

Skating in front of a home crowd, the 18-year-old Kovtun produced a 92.53, the fourth-highest score of the season and better than Plushenko’s best-ever short program (91.30), securing himself a safe lead over second-place Tatsuki Machida of Japan (84.90) and re-igniting the discussion of who will get Russia’s coveted lone Olympic spot for Sochi.

Kovtun was a disappointing 17th at the World Championships earlier this year, meaning the Russians got just one place for a men’s singles skater at the upcoming Olympic Games. But after a second-place finish at the Cup of Russia earlier this month and a dazzling performance that included a quadruple Salchow-triple toe opening combination and a quadruple toe to follow, Kovtun continues to push the envelope.

Reigning world bronze medalist Javier Fernandez fell on his opening quadruple Salchow, relegating him to third behind Kovtun and Machida.

Lipnitskaya, Savchenko/Szolkowy take leads in Moscow

It was a poor showing for American men, as Richard Dornbush came up short on two of his jumps and fell on his lone Axel, a triple, finishing seventh out of eight skaters. His teammate, Josh Farris, withdrew after spraining his ankle Thursday in practice.

Dornbush is the 2011 U.S. Championships siilver medalist while Farris, 18, is competing in his first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. He was fifth at Skate Canada last month.

In the ice dancing that followed, reigning and three-time Russian national champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dimitry Soloviyev skated to a first-place finish in the short program with a 68.42. The team earned a bronze medal at the World Championships earlier this year.

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were second with a 61.50, though they were visibly disappointed after seeing their scores. Weaver had pumped her fist following their short dance, but then stared blankly at the screen and simply said, “OK,” when their scores came up.

Ekaterina Riyazanova and Iliya Tkachenko of Russia were third while Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the lone Americans in ice dance, were fourth, less than a point back from medal contention.

For much of the second group of ice dancers Friday night the rink took on a Broadway theme, music from “Chicago,” “42nd Street,” “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Moulin Rouge” playing in consecutive programs.

Kovtun will look for another show-stopping performance Saturday in the men’s free skate. Many around skating believe the Olympic spot will go to Plushenko if he is healthy regardless of how Kovtun performs, though a win in Moscow from the youngster would put more pressure on the veteran.

The last Russian man not named Plushenko to win a Grand Prix gold medal? Iliya Klimkin at the NHK Trohpy in 2002.

Brittany Bowe, Heather Richardson-Bergsma upset at World Championships

Brittany Bowe
AP
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Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson-Bergsma are the two fastest women’s speed skaters in the 1000m all time, but the Netherlands’ Jorien ter Mors was faster on Friday.

Shani Davis, a two-time Olympic 1000m champion, also finished fifth in the 1500m, behind Russian winner Denis Yuskov.

Ter Mors, the Olympic 1500m champion, upset the Americans in the shorter event at the World Single Distance Championships in Kolomna, Russia.

Ter Mors clocked 1:14.73 in an early pair and then nervously watched, her hands gripping her face, as Richardson-Bergsma and Bowe skated in the final two pairs.

Richardson-Bergsma, the world-record holder for eight days until Bowe snatched it Nov. 22, crossed the finish line in 1:14.94 in the penultimate pair.

Then came Bowe, winner of four of the last five World Cup 1000m races. The former Florida Atlantic University basketball player clocked 1:15.01.

Richardson-Bergsma and Bowe earned silver and bronze, respectively. In 2015, Bowe took gold and Richardson-Bergsma silver.

Full results are here.

Bowe and Richardson-Bergsma, who combined to sweep the 500m, 1000m and 1500m World titles last year, could share the podium again in the 500m on Saturday and the 1500m on Sunday.

Bowe and Richardson-Bergsma were part of a disappointing, medal-less U.S. speed skating showing at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The best individual finish between the two was seventh in Sochi.

They’ve dominated since. In the 1000m alone, the Americans combined to win 10 of the last 11 World Cup races.

On the first day of Worlds on Thursday, the Netherlands’ Sven Kramer took the 10,000m and the Czech Republic’s Martina Sablikova captured the 3000m.

Kramer, 29, earned his 16th career World Single Distance Championships title, doubling the number of the No. 2 man all time, Davis. All 17 World champions in the 10,000m have been Dutch.

Sablikova, who reportedly qualified for the Rio Olympics in road cycling, earned her 11th career World Single Distance Championships title. She’s one behind retired German Anni Friesinger-Postma for the women’s record.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on Sochi Olympic medalists

IOC president: ‘No intention’ by any countries to pull out of Rio Olympics

Thomas Bach
AP
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LILLEHAMMER, Norway (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach said Friday that no countries intend to pull out of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro over concerns about the Zika virus.

Bach, speaking ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, said he has “full confidence” in the actions being undertaken by the Brazilian authorities and global health organizations to combat the outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus.

“There is no intention by [any] national Olympic committee to pull out from the Rio Olympic Games,” Bach said. “This does not exclude that we are taking this situation very seriously.”

Brazil has been the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, which has spread across Latin America and been labeled a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

Health authorities are investigating whether there is link between Zika infections in pregnant women and microcephaly, a rare condition in which children are born with abnormally small heads. The outbreak has raised concerns ahead of the Olympics, which are still six months away in August.

“We have full confidence in all the many actions being undertaken by the Brazilian and international authorities and health organizations,” Bach said. “We’re also very confident that the athletes and the spectators will enjoy safe conditions in Rio de Janeiro.”

Some athletes, most notably U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, have expressed fears about going to the Olympics. Solo said earlier this week that if the games were being held today, she would not go.

Bach said the IOC was working with national Olympic committees and the World Health Organization to monitor the situation. He reiterated that, because the games are taking place during the Brazilian winter, the colder conditions should mitigate the threat from mosquitoes.

“The World Health Organization has not issued a travel ban,” Bach said. “All the experts agree that the temperatures in the Brazilian winter time when the games are taking place in August … will lead to a very different situation.”

Bach’s comments echoed those of the IOC’s medical director, Dr. Richard Budgett, who told The Associated Press on Thursday that “everything that can be done is being done” to contain Zika ahead of the games, stressing that health authorities have not issued any travel restrictions for Brazil.

Bach is in Lillehammer for the second Youth Winter Olympics, where more than 1,000 athletes from 70 countries between the ages of 15 and 18 will compete in 70 medal events over 10 days.

MORE: Youth Winter Olympics broadcast schedule