Julia Lipnitskaia

Lipnitskaya holds off Kostner, Savchenko/Szolkowy win at Grand Prix of Russia

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Battling nerves and an experienced foe, 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya skated to a gold-medal win Saturday afternoon at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, becoming just the second woman this season to win two Grand Prix golds.

The home favorite’s 190.80 barely edged out 2012 world champion Carolina Kostner’s 190.12, advancing the teen to the Grand Prix Final in two weeks and putting her alongside 2010 Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada as the only double-gold winner of the 2013 season.

Mirai Nagasu of the U.S. had a strong free skate, vaulting herself from fourth to third and claiming her first Grand Prix medal in over a year. Third after the short program, American Agnes Zawadzki fell to sixth after a shaky and at times slow free skate.

With the Grand Prix stop in Russia the final one of the season, Lipnitskaya and Asada are unofficially into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks, joined by American Ashley Wagner and Russians Adelina Sotnikova, Anna Pogorilaya and Yelena Radyonova (who, because of age, isn’t eligible for the Olympics). The official list will be released by the ISU.

“I’m not satisfied with today. It was the worst skate of my career,” Lipnitskaya said bluntly after her win, according to Russian outlet R-Sport. “I was very nervy today, not like usual. I made a mistake on the first jump and then I wasn’t able to pull myself together.”

In the pairs competition, the short program held to form Saturday, four-time world champions and Vancouver bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany outdoing the Russian team of Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov by five points.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch held on for third place despite a bad fall on a lift and a solid free skate from Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov, the Canadian pair grabbing the bronze by less than a point overall.

Kovtun makes a statement in men’s short program

While the 26-year-old Kostner won the free skate by nearly four points, it wasn’t enough to overcome the youthful Lipnitskaya, who played the character of a searching young girl in her long program. Lipnitskaya barely saved an early fall on a triple Lutz, then skated with more vigor through the rest of her program.

Neither woman appeared to skate as cleanly as Nagasu, though the 20-year-old American was called for under-rotating one jump and taking off on the wrong edge of her skate (a half-point deduction) on two others. But it was a mental victory for Mirai, who was fourth at the Olympics in 2010 and since has lacked consistent results.

With her bronze medal, Nagasu joins Wagner and Gracie Gold as the only two American ladies to win a medal this Grand Prix season. Christina Gao (fourth and eighth) and Zawadzki (seventh and sixth) are thought to be the two other top contenders for one of three U.S. spots in Sochi.

Despite her win, Lipnitskaya, the 2012 junior world champion, was visibly disappointed with her free skate. She scored eight points lower than her total from her Skate Canada win a month ago. Lipnitskaya becomes just the second skater age in the last 15 years to win two Grand Prix medals in one season at the age of 15 or younger, her countrywoman Elizavita Tuktamysheva doing so in 2011.

Savchenko/Szolkowy skated convincingly throughout after a short program that saw Aliona fall hard and apparently injure herself. But the German of Ukranian descent showed no signs of pain, though she did two-foot her landing on a triple Salchow throw to close the free skate, playing it safe.

Unofficially, Savchenko/Szolkowy qualify for the Grand Prix Final with their gold medal in Moscow, following a first-place performance at the Cup of China earlier this month. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch are unofficially in, as well.

Rory McIlroy says Olympic participation still ‘complicated,’ ‘difficult’

HAINAN ISLAND, CHINA - NOVEMBER 23:  Graeme McDowell (R) and Rory McIlroy of Ireland walk behind a flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup at the Mission Hills' Blackstone Course on November 23, 2011 in Hainan Island, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Rory McIlroy has said he was proven wrong about golf’s place in the Olympics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s keen on the 2020 Tokyo Games after skipping Rio.

The four-time major champion was asked Wednesday if he had any plans to play in the next Olympics and called it a “tough question.”

“The participation in the Olympics for me, it’s just a little more complicated I feel for me than some other people from where I’m from and the whole politics of the thing,” McIlroy said. “It’s a difficult subject for me.”

McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, which does not have a separate delegation at the Olympics. That led to a scrutinized decision for McIlroy, who had to choose in 2014 between representing Great Britain and Ireland for golf’s Olympic return in Rio.

McIlroy opted for Ireland, which he represented at the World Cup of Golf in 2009 and 2011.

“I don’t know whether it’s been because the World Cup has been in Brazil and I’ve been thinking a couple of years down the line,” McIlroy reportedly said in June 2014. “Thinking about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything, I think for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland in 2016.”

Golf’s place in the Olympics is not guaranteed beyond 2020, so Tokyo may be McIlroy’s last opportunity.

“Four years’ time is a long ways away, so we’ll see what happens,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “Right now, I’ll concentrate on the 16 majors that we have between now and then and try to get a few more of those and go from there.”

MORE: Tim Finchem eyes Olympic golf change in 2020

Rita Jeptoo stripped of Boston Marathon win, ban extended

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21:  Rita Jeptoo of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Kenyan Rita Jeptoo‘s doping ban has been doubled, to October 30, 2018, and her 2014 Boston and Chicago Marathon wins were stripped, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Wednesday.

Jeptoo repeated as Boston Marathon winner in 2014, one year after twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race, in a women’s course record 2:18:57.

Jeptoo, 35, tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition sample in Kenya on Sept. 25, 2014, three weeks before she won her second straight Chicago Marathon.

Athletics Kenya handed Jeptoo a backdated two-year suspension in January 2015, a punishment that was appealed by the IAAF, which sought a longer ban. Jeptoo also appealed the ban but later withdrew her motion.

“In coming to its decision, the Panel found to its comfortable satisfaction that the athlete used rEPO over a period of time to enhance performance,” the court said in a press release Wednesday. “The undisputed source of the rEPO found in her sample of 25 September 2014 was an injection given to her by a doctor. The athlete provided various differing accounts of the circumstances leading up to the injection and also regarding her relationship with that doctor.

“According to the applicable rules, the minimum period of ineligibility in this situation is a sanction of two years but can be increased to up to four years in the case of aggravating circumstances. The Panel is comfortably satisfied that there are aggravating circumstances in the case at hand as it was obvious to the Panel that the athlete used rEPO as part of a scheme or plan. The evidence for this includes inter alia her long relationship with the doctor in question, her multiple visits to see him, that her rEPO use was consistent with her competition calendar, that she hid the visits to the doctor in question from her manager and coach, as well as her deceptive and obstructive conduct throughout the proceedings. Weighing all the evidence, the Panel is comfortably satisfied that the circumstances warrant a period of ineligibility of four years.”

Ethiopians Buzunesh Deba and Mare Dibaba stand to be upgraded from second to first in the 2014 Boston and Chicago Marathons, respectively. Deba’s time of 2:19:59 stands to be the new Boston women’s course record.

Jeptoo also won the Boston Marathon in 2006.

VIDEO: Kenenisa Bekele misses marathon world record by 6 seconds