Yuzuru Hanyu

Hanyu cruises over Chan, claims Grand Prix Final gold

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Has Japan finally found the skater that can win the country its first gold medal in men’s figure skating? Yuzuru Hanyu just might be that man, the 18-year-old delivering a complete performance to capture the gold medal at the Grand Prix Final Friday in front of a home crowd, besting three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

Hanyu, a day shy of turning 19, carried a safe 12-point lead into the free skate following an epic short program. The teenager, the third-youngest Grand Prix Final champion in history, scored a 293.25 overall, easily beating Chan’s 280.08.

The Japanese crowd let out an audible gasp and screams when Hanyu opened his program with a hard fall on a quadruple Salchow. But Hanyu, coached by 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, dusted himself off to land eight triples in his free skate. He retains the Grand Prix Final crown for his country: Daisuke Takahashi won it a year ago.

Nobunari Oda, a substitute for an injured Takahashi this year, fell on his opening jump as well, but finished with the home crowd clapping along to “Wilheim Tell Overture” as he secured the bronze medal. Tatsuki Machida was fourth in a Japan-heavy field.

Of the three medalists, Chan was the only to stay on his feet in the free skate, but the 22-year-old from Canada stepped out of a triple flip-double toe combination and didn’t have the firepower to claw back from a 12-point deficit following the short program.

Last month, the reigning and three-time world champion set a world record with his scores at the Grand Prix of France, but Hanyu has now disrupted Chan’s Olympic favorite status, throwing the men’s medal picture for Sochi into a cloud of confusion.

Takahashi, the bronze medalist in Vancouver, is likely to factor into that conversation, as could three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko, should the 31-year-old Russian be fit enough to skate in Sochi in February.

Plushenko’s countryman Maksim Kovtun was strong in his free skate, but finished fifth overall in the six-man field.

Hanyu moved up a spot from his second-place finish at the Grand Prix Final. He beat Chan here a year ago, as well, the Canadian finishing third.

Davis/White skate to lead in ice dancing

Amy Purdy, Winter Paralympic medalist, to perform at Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Amy Purdy
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Amy Purdy made her name as a snowboardcross bronze medalist at the Sochi Paralympics and runner-up on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014.

In September, she’ll combine both.

Purdy will perform as a dancer in the Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony on Sept. 7, in addition to being an NBC reporter during the Games.

She was told her performance will be four to five minutes. On “Dancing with the Stars,” her performances were about 90 seconds, she said. She traveled to Rio for a week of rehearsals in July.

Purdy, 36, survived bacterial meningitis in 1999 but lost both her legs and later needed a kidney from her father at age 20.

“I’m most excited about the concept of this dance,” Purdy said. “Just the idea of man versus machine. A lot of times we feel really limited because of our prosthetics. But this dance, hopefully, will kind of shatter those borders a little bit and allow me to move my body in a way I haven’t done before.”

Purdy is an innovator. She built her own snowboard and is seen as instrumental in getting her sport into the Paralympic program beginning in 2014.

A model, she’s been in a Madonna music video, a Super Bowl commercial, ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue and competed on “The Amazing Race” in 2012.

MORE: Rio Paralympic broadcast schedule

Sneak peek at Lindsey Vonn’s episode of ‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls’

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Lindsey Vonn‘s episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” will air on NBC on Monday at 10 p.m. ET.

From NBC Universal:

“After roaring across crystal-clear waters in a speedboat, Bear and Lindsey must strip down and swim to shore before inching their way along the rugged coastline. After rappelling down a sheer rock wall, the two get inventive and use a spear-gun to traverse a hundred-foot deep chasm. With the sun setting, they collect a dinner of sea urchins and Bear challenges Lindsey to a swimming competition with hilarious results. Along the way Lindsey shares her journey of love, Olympic glory, and displays the focus and determination that has made her one of the most successful female athletes of all time.”

Vonn is returning from a Feb. 27 crash that left her with three significant left knee fractures.

With 76 career World Cup wins, she is 10 shy of the record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn wants to race men, retire in 2019