Asada wins gold, Wagner third at Grand Prix Final

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Skating in a Grand Prix at home perhaps for the last time, Mao Asada claimed gold Saturday at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan, the 23-year-old rising above an error-prone finish in the ladies’ free skate.

Fifteen-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya skated cleanly to jump her way from fourth to second, claiming the silver medal. American Ashley Wagner, the reigning and two-time national champion, won bronze.

Asada, currently the only female skater to attempt the triple Axel, fell on her opening jump then two-footed the landing of another. But the silver medalist from the Vancouver Games was solid through the rest of her program, skated to “Piano Concerto No. 2. Asada executed precise footwork and landed five more triples to win the free skate and finish with a 204.02.

The two-time world champion is considered the main threat to reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim for the top of the podium in Sochi come February. Kim is making her season debut at a small event in Croatia this weekend.

Wagner looked down and out after her free skate in which she fell on a triple Lutz and was called for under-rotating her triple-triple combination, an element she’s made a campaign to add throughout the season.

But Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who was second after the short program, was disastrous in her free skate, popping a triple Lutz into a single and falling twice. The 17-year-old finished last in the long program marks, and fell from second to fifth overall in the six-woman field.

With the bronze, Wagner becomes the first American to win back-to-back Grand Prix Final medals since Sasha Cohen did so in 2002 and 2003. Wagner, 22, was second to Asada a year ago.

“I have a lot to go home and work on,” said Wagner in a U.S. Figure Skating press release. “Today was more about my mental strength after I make a mistake than anything else. I feel technically I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and that I need to go work on the mental part of it.”

It was a 14th Grand Prix gold for Asada, who has said she will retire after this Olympic season, passing Michelle Kwan’s haul of 13. Russian Irina Slutskaya is the only female skater with more, having won 17 Grand Prix gold medals in her career.

The win was a back-to-back effort for Asada at the Grand Prix final, marking the first time that has been achieved since Yuna Kim won in both 2006 and 2007. It’s the fourth Grand Prix Final title overall for Asada.

Davis/White wow with 15th consecutive Grand Prix gold

Final results – Ladies
1. Mao Asada (JPN) 204.02
2. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) 192.07
3. Ashley Wagner (USA) 187.61
4. Yelena Radyonova (RUS) 183.02
5. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 173.30
6. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 171.88

Ugandan Olympian’s body shuts down at World Cross-Country Champs (video)

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Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei went from leading the race to finishing 30th in the final kilometer at the World Cross-Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda, on Sunday.

Cheptegei, a 20-year-old Olympian, saw his body shut down in the last four minutes of his race.

His stride shortened. His pace slowed. Cheptegei appeared on the verge of falling. At one point, a teammate deliberately pushed him from behind to keep going.

Cheptegei led by 12 seconds going into the final two-kilometer lap. He would finish 1 minute, 44 seconds behind Kenyan winner Geoffrey Kamworor, with 28 other runners separating them after the 10km race that took about a half-hour.

Cheptegei’s body movement looked similar to that of British triathlete Jonny Brownlee, who had to be helped to the finish line by brother Alistair Brownlee at the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Cozumel, Mexico, in September.

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Mark McMorris hospitalized after snowboarding accident

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Olympic bronze medalist Mark McMorris suffered several injuries including a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung during a backcountry snowboarding trip Saturday, according to Canada Snowboard.

McMorris underwent surgery to control bleeding from the spleen on Saturday. He underwent another surgery to repair the jaw and arm fractures Sunday and was resting in Vancouver General Hospital on Monday morning.

“While both the mandible and humerus fractures were complicated injuries, the surgeries went very well, and both fractures are now stabilized to heal in excellent position,” Canada Snowboard team physician Dr. Rodney J. French said, according to the press release. “It is too early to speculate on a timeline for Mark’s recovery.”

McMorris, 23, won bronze in the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle event in Sochi, competing 12 days after breaking a rib.

McMorris has been considered a threat for two gold medals in PyeongChang, with the addition of big air. He earned Winter X Games medals in both slopestyle and big air in 2015, 2016 and 2017, including double gold in 2015.

He has already come back in this Olympic cycle from breaking his right femur in an Air and Style big air run in Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2016 (video here). His rehab has been extensively documented by Canadian media.

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