Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Davis/White best Virtue/Moir by slimmest of margins, lead at GP Final

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On rages the battle between the two best ice dance teams in the world. Friday at the Grand Prix Finals in Fukuoka, Japan, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White squeaked out the narrowest of margins against rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, taking the lead after the short dance, 77.66 to 77.59.

“Wow,” remarked White in the Kiss and Cry after the scores came in. “So close,” replied Davis.

It’s the Americans who have dominated this rivalry over the last few years, winning the World Championships in 2011 and 2013 after the Canadians had captured gold at the Vancouver Games. Davis/White are going for their 15th consecutive Grand Prix gold medal, a record in the sport.

In the pairs short program, the favorites prevailed in what was a flurry of high-octane skating, one team putting out a show-stopping performance after the other. It was reigning world champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov who skated into the lead, scoring a 82.65. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the Germans, were second with a 79.46.

Volosozhar/Trankov have appeared unstoppable this Grand Prix season, registering the two highest scores as no team has come within 25 points of them. But the Russian gold-medal favorites were forced to deliver as the final pair skating Friday after five teams put out season-best performance’s in Fukuoka.

There was less pressure on Davis/White and Virtue/Moir, who appear to be in a class by themselves. Even with four near-flawless dances before them, the top two teams enjoyed a margin of nearly nine points. Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev of Russia were in third, scoring a 68.90.

Davis/White and Virtue/Moir recorded the two highest-ever scores for a short dance, besting Davis/White’s mark from the 2013 World Championships of 77.13.

The Americans and Canadians train with one another and share the same coach in Detroit, an unusual arrangement that they feel brings out the best in both teams.

“I think that having such talent alongside of you that Tessa and Scott have every day in training and in competition does nothing but push Charlie and myself further,” Davis said. “It makes us want to be a better team every day.”

In pairs, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, the Vancouver silver medalists, were third after the short program, scoring a 75.40. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford turned in their season’s best 73.07 to secure fourth place.

The Russians had struggled with their throw triple loop in the warm-up, Volosozhar double-rotating it at one point and two-footing another landing. But there was no trouble for them in a session that saw no falls on throws or side-by-side jumps.

Savchenko/Szolkowy, the four-time world champions and 2010 Olympic bronze medalists, were given a one-point deduction for a time violation, widening the gap between them and Volosozhar/Trankov.

Volosozhar/Trankov are looking to become just the fourth pairs team to win back-to-back Grand Prix Final gold medals. The last to do so? Savchenko/Szolkowy in 2010 and 2011.

Davis/White are looking for their fifth straight Grand Prix Final win.

Hanyu, Asada lead after short program at Grand Prix Final

Doping investigator ‘inundated with requests’ for more info on Russians

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Canadian lawyer who accused Russia of operating a state-run doping program is facing “a deluge of requests” for information on individual athletes implicated in his investigation.

Richard McLaren, who was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, issued a report that accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing doping among Olympic athletes in more than two dozen summer and winter sports.

The IOC rejected calls by WADA and other anti-doping bodies to ban Russia’s entire Olympic team from the Rio de Janeiro Games. Instead, the International Olympic Committee asked individual sports federations to determine which Russian athletes would be cleared to compete.

“My office has been inundated with requests for information on individual athletes,” McLaren said in a statement released late Friday from London, Ontario. “The (IOC) decision has resulted in a deluge of requests to provide information to the IFs (international federations); Russian national federations; the Russian Olympic Committee; the Russian Paralympic Committee and individual Russian athletes.”

McLaren said he has provided information to WADA that names athletes whose urine samples were part of a state-run cover-up.

“WADA in turn has shared this information with IFs,” he said.

More than 100 Russian athletes have been barred from the games so far – including the track and field team banned by the IAAF and more than 30 athletes excluded by other federations since the release of McLaren’s report. Russia’s entire weightlifting team was kicked out Friday.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday that 272 of the country’s original 387-strong team had been approved by international sports federations to compete in Rio.

The IOC has said that any Russian athlete with a prior sanction for doping would not be allowed into the games. Anyone implicated in McLaren’s report would also be excluded, the IOC said.

McLaren said his mandate has been extended to finish the investigation and “identify any further athletes that might have benefited from such manipulation to conceal positive doping tests.”

Until now, he said, the focus of his investigation was to look into evidence of a “state-dictated program which used the Moscow and Sochi laboratories to cover up doping.”

“It has not been to establish anti-doping rule violation cases against individual athletes,” McLaren said, adding that it was not his job to process doping cases against individual athletes.

“I have, however, received a considerable amount of reliable evidence, which clearly implicates individual athletes in the state-dictated program described in the report,” he said. “That evidence includes documents supported by the testimony of confidential witnesses and in some cases additional forensic and analytical evidence from the examination of sample bottles and their contents.”

McLaren said his ongoing investigation includes developing evidence which may be used in the future to sanction individual athletes.

“At this stage, I will not release any of the specific information I currently have concerning any athletes,” he said. “To do so would compromise the ongoing investigation.”

MORE: Entire Russian weightlifting team banned from Olympics

Martin Kaymer motivated by Olympics in PGA Championship run

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - JULY 28: Martin Kaymer of Germany plays his shot from the seventh tee  during the first round of the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on July 28, 2016 in Springfield, New Jersey.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
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SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — The chance to compete at the Olympics can’t come soon enough for Martin Kaymer.

While the top four players in the world and 21 men overall will not be part of the Rio Games, the 31-year-old German has been thinking about it all summer.

Calling out Michael Phelps as one of the best Olympians he wants to see and meet, Kaymer sounds as though he’s looking forward to going to Rio as much as his ongoing run at the PGA Championship.

Rio isn’t so much as distraction, rather a motivation.

“It is so, so, inspiring, and I really look forward to go, experience that, and I don’t know how I will feel,” Kaymer said. “I’m sure it’s going to take a couple weeks after that to reflect on all your experiences.”

Going to Rio has inspired Kaymer’s latest hot streak. He shot a 4-under 66 in the opening round on Thursday and followed with a 69 in the second round to reach 5 under.

The two-time major champion, birdied three of his last four holes Friday.

“I think I placed myself in a very good spot,” Kaymer said. “Who knows where the leader is going to be by the end of the day. I shot a good score yesterday, a very good round today. So it’s a good position to be in in a major championship.”

After his opening round on Thursday, Kaymer said he is looking forward to seeing the best athletes in their sports at the Olympics — and not only the Germans.

“I watched Lionel Messi a couple times when Barcelona played against Bayern Munich and I went to the stadium, just to see the class, the natural talent of an athlete, is amazing,” Kaymer said. “You know, you can work as hard as you want but you are never going to get there.”

Kaymer said especially Phelps has an invitation to come watch him play at Rio.

“He can walk inside the ropes, I’m sure,” he said. “That is just so great to watch them and just – sometimes it’s funny how good the athletes are. Because you compare yourself, how bad you are, because obviously you tried the sport, and I look forward to that.”

Kaymer went into this week at No. 51 in the world ranking, having not won since 2014.

Interestingly enough, it’s in the even-numbered years when Kaymer has played some of his best golf and 2016 is starting to look up after two promising rounds at Baltusrol.

“I’m more the kind of player who has some really nice highs in my career, and then I have some time to enjoy it again,” Kaymer said. “Then all of a sudden, you know, you create a little bit more inspiration from something, and then you play better again.”

In his first appearance of 2008, Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and then added a win in his homeland at the BMW International Open.

In 2010, Kaymer won his first major – the PGA Championship – after he won a three-hole playoff over Bubba Watson.

One of Europe’s heroes in 2012, Kaymer made a 6-foot putt on the last hole at the Ryder Cup to defeat Steve Stricker and secure the last point needed to achieve a stunning comeback and retain the Ryder Cup.

In 2014, Kaymer dominated at Pinehurst No. 2 for an eight-shot victory in the U.S. Open, one month after winning The Players Championship against the strongest and deepest field in golf. Kaymer joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win a U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Players Championship and WGC event before their 30th birthday.

“I think in general, you grow, not only as a golf player but as a person, as well, and through that success, through the two major wins that I had, I think you grow a lot more,” Kaymer said. “You take things a little bit more – you value them a little bit more, and therefore, somehow it calms me down.”

After struggling in the first part of the 2016 season, Kaymer is headed into the weekend rounds at the PGA Championship back on the upswing.

MORE: Bubba Watson, U.S. golfers get pep talk from Olympic legend Dan Jansen