Asada wins gold, Wagner third at Grand Prix Final


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

NCAA runner dragged to finish line by opponents (video)

Madeline Adams
NC State Athletics
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Boston College’s Madeline Adams dropped to the ground during the final meters of the ACC Cross-Country Championships on Friday.

What happened next was reminiscent of one of the most memorable Rio Olympic track and field moments.

Clemson’s Evie Tate stopped and helped Adams up at the Cary, N.C., 6k race. Then, Louisville’s Rachel Pease did the same. Tate and Pease each took one of Adams’ arms and dragged her to the finish.

Pease would finish 127th and Tate 128th out of 131 finishers. Adams was disqualified. Full results are here.

Tate was running around 70th or 80th place when she stopped, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which means her aid ended up costing Clemson about 10 points in the team scores.

Clemson was sixth, 23 points behind fifth-place Syracuse, so Tate’s act of sportsmanship actually didn’t change the Tigers’ placing. NC State won, Louisville was fourth and Boston College 12th.

The scene  brought to mind the Rio Olympic women’s 5000m heats, when American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin fell and then crossed the finish line together.

MORE: NCAA might reconsider Olympic bonuses after swimmer received $750,000

Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir back Gracie Gold for discussing weight in figure skating

SPOKANE, WA - APRIL 23:  Gracie Gold of Team North America competes in the Ladie's Free Program on day 2 of the 2016 KOSE Team Challenge Cup at Spokane Arena on April 23, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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NBC Sports figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir supported Gracie Gold‘s transparency in her comments about weight and figure skating.

“These are thoughts that every skater’s thinking about, but I think you don’t [see skaters] talk about it because in reality saying you need to lose weight when you’re already thin is a bit crazy,” Lipinski said. “In figure skating, gymnastics, ballet, there is always this pressure to be very thin, not only for aesthetics, but just for your actual sport and how you use your body. Weight definitely does play an issue. In skating, you’re three times your weight in the air, and you’re landing on one foot on a tiny blade.”

Lipinski and Weir said they struggled with weight issues while skating. They became too thin.

“Being a skater, I understand where Gracie was coming from,” Weir said. “To the masses, whenever you talk about diet and food and getting in shape physically, when you are an athlete on TV and you look like you are in shape compared to most of the country, it can be a little bit of a disconnect between the athletes appearing on TV and the audience.”

Weir lauded Gold for not only being open about not being at peak fitness — after taking much of the summer off — but also to compete at a top-level event like Skate America under those circumstances. (Gold said she considered skipping the Grand Prix season.)

“It’s all about telling the truth, saying, ‘I’m not in shape. I’m not there yet, but just wait, and I’ll give it to you,'” Weir said.

Weir said it could lead to more open discussions in the sport.

“You hope that, over time, you can start to look at the skaters that have been great champions and realize everyone has a different body type,” Lipinski said.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule