Brittany Bowe

Brittany Bowe, Shani Davis win at Astana World Cup

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U.S. speed skaters were spectacular on fast North American ice to start the World Cup season, but how they fared on slower European ice, beginning this weekend, would offer a more accurate gauge of their Olympic prospects.

Brittany Bowe and Shani Davis continued to win in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Saturday.

The four-time Olympic medalist Davis took a 1000m in 1 minute, 8.66 seconds, beating surprise Italian Mirko Giacomo Nenzi by .24 of a second. Nenzi had never before finished in the top 10 of a World Cup 1000m. The race was missing Davis’ top competition so far this season, the Netherlands’ Kjeld Nuis and American Brian Hansen.

Davis won his third straight 1000m to start the season. He could become the first U.S. man to win a single Winter Olympic event three straight times if he captures the 1000m in Sochi.

Davis was fifth in the 1500m on Friday after taking second and first at the first two 1500m races of the season in Calgary, Alberta, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bowe won the 1500m in 1:57.28, nearly five seconds slower than her silver medal-winning time on fast Salt Lake City ice two weeks ago. The Floridian had finished 10th and 11th in earlier 500m races Friday and Saturday.

It must be noted that Bowe beat a field that did not include any woman who had made a World Cup or World Championships 1500m podium in the last two years.

South Korean world record holder Lee Sang-Hwa won her sixth straight 500m, in 37.32, to open the season, while world sprint champion Heather Richardson took fifth.

Russians Artyom Kuznetsov and Dmitry Lobkov went one-two in the men’s 500m, separated by .01 of a second. Two-time U.S. Olympian Tucker Fredricks was sixth.

The Astana World Cup concludes Sunday.

Astana Day 2

Women’s 500m — Race 2
1. Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR) — 37.32
2. Jenny Wolf (GER) — 37.66
3. Olga Fatkulina (RUS) — 37.81
5. Heather Richardson (USA) — 38.01
11. Brittany Bowe (USA) — 38.47
12. Lauren Cholewinski (USA) — 38.53
14. Elli Ochowicz (USA) — 38.60

Men’s 500m — Race 1
1. Artyom Kuznetsov (RUS) — 34.85
2. Dmitry Lobkov (RUS) — 34.86
3. Ronald Mulder (NED) — 34.87
6. Tucker Fredricks (USA) — 35.02
10. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) — 35.11

Women’s 1500m
1. Brittany Bowe (USA) — 1:57.28
2. Yuliya Skokova (RUS) — 1:57.70
3. Brittany Schussler (CAN) — 1:57.78
10. Jilleanne Rookard (USA) — 1:59.17

Men’s 1000m
1. Shani Davis (USA) — 1:08.66
2. Mirko Giacomo Nenzi (ITA) — 1:08.90
3. Michel Mulder (NED) — 1:09.02
13. Trevor Marsicano (USA) — 1:09.94
14. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) — 1:10.05

Speed skating season storylines

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37