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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

NBC to air ‘More Than Gold’ documentary on Jesse Owens on Sunday (trailer)

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“More Than Gold: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” a one-hour documentary on the track and field legend, will air on NBC on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Morgan Freeman narrates the film on Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin Games in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Here’s a clip from the documentary.

“’More Than Gold’ will invite viewers inside the story of a pioneering athlete, who in the face of racial discrimination at home and the horrific theories and practices of Nazi Germany, performed at his best under immense pressure,” Mark Levy, Senior Vice President, Original Productions and Creative, NBC Sports Group, said in a press release. “Viewers will experience the Games through the compelling memories of Jesse’s surviving Olympic teammates, who were eye-witnesses to those events.”

“More Than Gold” includes interviews with Owens’ 1936 Olympic teammates swimmers Adolph Kiefer and Iris Cummings Critchell and canoeist John Lysak and Owens’ three daughters.

“Jesse Owens was the hero of every member of the 1936 Olympic team,” Kiefer said in a press release. “We all wanted him to win. We wanted him to win four medals. I’m just sorry it wasn’t five. He’s No. 1 and always will be.”

The film will also feature footage from the famous 1936 Olympic film “Olympia” from German director Leni Riefenstahl.

A feature-length film on Owens, “Race,” hits theaters on Feb. 19.

VIDEO: Three clips from ‘Race’ film about Jesse Owens

No consideration of postponing Olympics, IOC medical chief says

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LONDON (AP) — Seeking to calm fears over the Zika outbreak, the IOC medical director tells The Associated Press that “everything that can be done is being done” to combat the virus in Brazil and provide safe conditions for athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Dr. Richard Budgett says the International Olympic Committee is “absolutely not complacent” about the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects.

He says “our priority is to protect the health of the athletes, we do take it very seriously.”

Budgett says the outbreak should be kept “in perspective,” noting that world health authorities have not called for a restriction on travel to Brazil.

He says there has been no consideration of postponing or canceling the Olympics, which are scheduled from Aug. 5-21.

MORE: USOC to hire Zika specialists